Arbour Zena
Keith Jarrett

Arbour Zena
ECM ****
Shake awake gen Y to Keith Jarrett by all means. And where better to start than with this timely reissue of an album generation X have pretty much now almost forgotten about.

Ultimately overshadowed by The Köln Concert recorded earlier in 1975 Arbour Zena was recorded in the autumn (when The Köln Concert was released) but this expansive chamber work, the product of the studio, was everything the solo live piano album could not possibly be, and would have to wait a short while until the following year to be released.

Arbour Zena finds Jarrett alongside the Belonging Band’s Jan Garbarek on tenor and soprano saxophone and Charlie Haden from the American quartet plus a string orchestra plucked from Stuttgart’s Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Sarajevo-born conductor Mladen (aka Bobby) Gutesha conducting. Recorded at the Tonstudio Bauer in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart where two months later Pat Metheny would record Bright Size Life and Tomasz Stańko Balladyna, the initially shimmering Copland-esque ‘Runes’ (dedicated to the unknown by Jarrett) takes your breath away, Jarrett’s naked improvising power cut loose after the five minute mark and by 11 minutes in it’s like a mystical earth ritual listening to Garbarek in diaphonous repose responding with great waves of emotion, the saxophone just the means of expression to hand.

Followed by the more sprawling and latinate ‘Solara March’ (cellist Pablo Casals and ‘the sun’ the dedicatees) and then the long ‘Mirrors’, it’s an often enthralling unfairly under-appreciated album, quite beautiful in places with Jarrett cocooned by the strings rather than cocooning them.