Keith Jarrett’s feet were stomping on the stage, his voice grunting over the music. I was walking on Pine Avenue with goosebumps. The surface of my skin was reacting to every single note he was playing and my heart was pounding. I teared up and felt embarrassed. Surely, The Köln Concert was New Age music, it couldn’t be jazz. It was too earnest to be compared to the music of Thelonious Monk. Jarrett’s loud, repetitive and incessant squealing—nothing like Glenn Gould‘s soothing humming. Music this emotionally charged could only thrive as a jazz oddity, a musical interlude. Sighing while walking on such sounds was shameful. Beauty couldn’t be this obvious.
I remember sitting down by the fountain at the St-Louis Square, catching my breath and avoiding passerby glances. I sat down at exactly 07:15m of the Köln Concert, when Jarrett’s improvisation goes all heart. I was FEELING. All of it. It was unbearable. I had been shutting down since my father’s suicide. I was a dry pond, all emotions had been sucked away from me. Listening to Keith Jarrett for the very first time in the middle of Montreal, on an average summer day, was excruciatingly uncomfortable, and one of the most honest and beautiful moments of my life. On that day, I started healing and making peace with my father. On that day, I felt the love I once had for my father, a love I had buried deep under my suffering. On that day I started forgiving myself for not being there when he took his life away. On that day, I understood that I had nothing to do with his untimely death.
And at 26:00m of the Köln Concert, I cried in front of everyone by the fountain at the St-Louis Square.
Note from the author: The Blues and The Abstract Truth is a four-part reflection on Jazz and its impact on my life during the years that followed my father’s death. The title The Blues and The Abstract Truth is borrowed from the Oliver Nelson album recorded in 1961.