Originally released back in 2004, this definitive documentary on beloved jazz icon Keith Jarrett has been given a long overdue Blu-ray release from EuroArts following the musician’s announcement in late 2021 that he was retiring for health reasons. Watching the film now is something of a bittersweet affair, knowing that Jarrett will never perform again after two strokes in 2018 left him partially paralysed and unable to use his left hand – but the overall feeling is one of celebration and tribute to a true visionary of jazz and classical music alike.
The format and delivery of the doc is pretty straightforward – Jarrett himself talks candidly throughout (the film was made in full cooperation with him), while a parade of talking heads bestow richly-deserved superlatives upon the pianist. Fascinating archive material from Jarrett’s career brings the tales to life as we see what an immense talent he was, while an included bonus feature of a performance from Tokyo will certainly convert any uninitiated into Jarrett’s camp of adoring fans.
The Blu-ray quality here is nothing to write home about – the film has simply been upscaled and sharpened to high definition with mixed results. All the usual grisly side effects of this process are here, while some of the archive material isn’t in particularly great shape. An LPCM 2.0 track is hardly mindblowing, but certainly does an adequate job of bringing Jarrett’s music and stories right into your living room.
But it’s the quality of the film itself – and indeed the bonus features – that are worth the price of purchase. This is a beautifully simplistic love letter to an incredibly talented musician, and even more of a tribute now than it was in 2004 due to Jarrett’s health. If you’re not familiar with his work, this film is essential viewing – Keith Jarrett’s name truly deserves a place among the greats.
Keith Jarrett: “Butch & Butch”, live from Tokyo
Extra interviews with Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette
KEITH JARRETT: THE ART OF IMPROVISATION is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from EuroArts