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Tue, 05.08.1945

Keith Jarrett, Jazz/Classical Pianist born

Keith Jarrett

*Keith Jarrett was born on this date in 1945.  He is a white-American jazz and classical music pianist and composer.  

Keith Jarrett was born Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States to a mother of Slovenian-Hungarian descent, from Prekmurjein Slovenia and a father of either French or Scots-Irish descent.  He grew up in suburban Allentown with significant early exposure to music.  Jarrett possesses absolute pitch, and he displayed prodigious musical talents as a young child.

He began piano lessons before his third birthday, and at age five he appeared on a TV talent program hosted by the swing bandleader Paul Whiteman.  He gave his first formal piano recital at the age of seven, playing works by composers such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Saint-Saëns, and ending with two of his own compositions.  Encouraged by his mother, he took classical piano lessons with a series of teachers, including Eleanor Sokoloff of the Curtis Institute.  In his teens, as a student at Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Jarrett learned jazz and became proficient in it. He developed a strong interest in contemporary jazz; a Dave Brubeck performance was an early inspiration He had an offer to study classical composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, but Jarrett already leaning toward jazz, decided to turn the offer down.  

After his graduation from Emmaus High School in 1963, Jarrett moved to Boston where he attended the Berklee College of Music and played cocktail piano in local clubs. After a year he moved to New York City, where he played at the Village Vanguard.  In New York, Art Blakey hired Jarrett to play with the Jazz Messengers. During a show he was noticed by Jack DeJohnette, who recognized the unknown pianist's talent and unstoppable flow of ideas. DeJohnette talked to Jarrett and recommended him to his band leader, Charles Lloyd.

The Charles Lloyd Quartet had formed not long before and were exploring open, improvised forms while building supple grooves, and they were moving into terrain that was also being explored, although from another stylistic background, by some of the psychedelic rock bands of the west coast.  Their 1966 album Forest Flower was one of the most successful jazz recordings of the mid-1960s, and when they were invited to play The Fillmore in San Francisco, they won over the local hippie audience. The Quartet's tours across America and Europe, and Moscow made Jarrett a popular musician in rock and jazz. The tour also laid the foundation for a lasting musical bond with DeJohnette.  

Jarrett began to record his own tracks as a leader of small groups.  Life Between the Exit Signs (1967), his first album as a leader, was followed by Restoration Ruin (1968).  Somewhere Before, another trio album followed in 1968 for Atlantic Records. His album The Köln Concert (1975) became the best-selling piano recording in history.  Since the early 1970s he has enjoyed a great deal of success as a group leader and a solo performer in jazz, jazz fusion, and classical music. His improvisations draw from the traditions of jazz and other genres, especially Western classical music, gospel, blues, and ethnic folk music. In 2003 Jarrett received the Polar Music Prize, the first recipient of both the contemporary and classical musician prizes and in 2004 he received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize.  In 2008 he was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in the magazine's 73rd Annual Readers' Poll.

To Become a Musician or Singer

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