Keith Jarrett: A Multitude of Angels

This newly-discovered box set captures the last gasp of Keith Jarrett's marathon concert phase.

Keith Jarrett

A Multitude of Angels

Label: ECM
US Release Date: 2016-11-18
UK Release Date: 2016-11-04
Label website

Sometime between the solo releases of La Scala and The Melody at Night, with You, pianist Keith Jarrett came down with chronic fatigue syndrome. While La Scala marked the end of a period in Jarrett's career where he would give improvisational concerts with no breaks in the program, The Melody at Night, with You marked his return to recording by way of a quiet album of old jazz standards recorded in his own home. What happened between these two releases has apparently sat in a box for 20 years, until now.

The four-disc box set A Multitude of Angels is the new turning point in Jarrett's career where he pushed himself too hard. His temporary illness is our gain. If marathon performances like The Köln Concert, La Scala, or Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne were your gold standard for inspiration, you'll be glad to know that this box piles on nearly five extra hours of it. The CD tracks are not divvied up for a vinyl format, either. With the exceptions of encores and covers of "Danny Boy" and "Over the Rainbow", these untitled improvisations range from 30 minutes to 43 minutes in length. The shortest CD is 70-plus minutes. Once you press play, you really need to hang in there.

All four concerts come from a seven-day span in Italy. The Modena show was on the evening of October 23, 1996. The Genoa show was on the night of October 30, 1996. In between are shows recorded in Ferrara and Turin. DAT machines were a trusty alternative to soundboard recordings, and Jarrett relied on a particular model to capture all four shows. The clarity is remarkable. You can hear audience coughs (something that agitates the pianist a great deal) and Jarrett's in-the-moment moans and groans (something that agitates his detractors even more).

Knowing that the pianist was on the verge of a major illness, I incorrectly assumed that the music of A Multitude of Angels would be turbulent. Remember that rapid-fire second movement of the La Scala program? The 12-tone roars of Radiance? The bulk of this box set is not made up of such stuff. A Multitude of Angels is built from Jarrett's Köln-era lyricism where Guaraldian melodies are plucked from thin air and highly-syncopated left hand grooves are summoned almost way too easily. The most dissonant things he attempts here are the second half of the "Torino" show and the first half of the "Genoa" show -- but even then, he can't help but eventually tame the jumping bean melodies and off-kilter harmonies before wrapping up the pieces.

Instead, experimentation is saved mostly for the format itself. As mentioned earlier, these shows represent the last gasp of Jarrett playing long shows uninterrupted. Subsequent recordings like Radiance , Rio, and The Carnegie Hall Concert had intermissions to help Jarrett pace himself. On A Multitude of Angels, the pianist is just laying it all out in the open one giant chunk at a time. And if it takes more than half an hour to do so, then so be it.

A Multitude of Angels tells the music world what Keith Jarrett fans already knew -- that the man could be an endless fountain of music, a one-man jam-band that only needed 88 keys to balance the Law of Fate with the Law of Accident (according to his liner notes). Since that's the case, this box will not alter anyone's perception of Jarrett or change his reputation overall. But there's something to be said for galvanizing something that's already pretty special, to begin with, and that being Keith Jarrett's improvisational concerts.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.