Two NY weeks, 5 artists

By Caitlin Kelly

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Sometimes you’re lucky enough to witness artistic history.

That happened to us last week at Carnegie Hall, in a fully sold-out audience, listening to 71-year-old jazz pianist Keith Jarrett.

That’s 2,804 people of all ages, listening for two-plus hours and three encores in rapt silence, as the show was being recorded, (so, eventually, you can hear it too!)

We were seated up in the nosebleeds, (aka the second-highest balcony); even those tickets were $70 apiece.

If you haven’t heard of him, or his music, you’re in for a treat.

From Wikipedia:

The studio albums are modestly successful entries in the Jarrett catalog, but in 1973, Jarrett also began playing totally improvised solo concerts, and it is the popularity of these voluminous concert recordings that made him one of the best-selling jazz artists in history. Albums released from these concerts were Solo Concerts: Bremen/Lausanne (1973), to which Time magazine gave its ‘Jazz Album of the Year’ award; The Köln Concert (1975), which became the best-selling piano recording in history;[15] and Sun Bear Concerts (1976) – a 10-LP (and later 6-CD) box set.

I was in college when the Koln Concert came out, and I was introduced to it by a boyfriend. I still have that album and still cherish it.

This week’s entire concert was improvised.

From Wikipedia:

Jarrett has commented that his best performances have been when he has had only the slightest notion of what he was going to play at the next moment. He also said that most people don’t know “what he does”, which relates to what Miles Davis said to him expressing bewilderment – as to how Jarrett could “play from nothing”. In the liner notes of the Bremen Lausanne album Jarrett states something to the effect that he is a conduit for the ‘Creator’, something his mother had apparently discussed with him.

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That was Wednesday night.

I barely had time to process what a magnificent evening it had been when a generous friend offered two free tickets to hear authors Colson Whitehead and George Saunders read and answer audience questions at the 92d Street Y, another Manhattan cultural institution.

Back into the city!

I had never read either of their works, but had read rapturous reviews of their new books — Lincoln in the Bardo and The Underground Railroad. Each read for 30 minutes and it was mesmerizing. Afterwards, answering audience questions written on note cards, they were funny, insightful and generous.

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It is one of the great pleasures of living in and near New York City — a place of stunning living costs — to be able to see and hear artists of this stature.

I’ve been writing for a living since college but this was Writing, fiction of such depth and emotional power it takes your breath away.

In a time of such political instability and anxiety, it was also healing to remember that art and culture connect us to one another and to history.

We escape. We muse. If we’re a fellow creative, we leave refreshed and inspired. We recharge our weary souls.

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On our main street, a terrific concert hall

On Saturday, we went to hear Bebel Gilberto, a Brazilian singer. Our suburban New York town has a fantastic music hall, built in 1885, where tickets are affordable and the variety of performances eclectic. Of all the shows we saw, this one was the only disappointment. The rest of the crowd loved it, but not us.

The week before, I heard director Kelly Reichardt being interviewed by fellow director Jonathan Demme after a screening of her 2010 film Meek’s Cutoff at a local art film house, the Jacob Burns Film Center.

She’s directed five feature films in a decade — no big deal for a guy, maybe, but a very big deal for a woman; only 13 percent are female.

As someone who’s a huge fan of movies, and of her films, this was a huge thrill. She was tiny, low-key, down to earth.

As a creative woman, it’s such a delight to see and hear another woman who’s carved such a great path for herself.

I went up later to say hello and was a total fan-girl, and she was warm and gracious.

Do you love culture?

What have you seen or heard lately that knocked your socks off?

18 thoughts on “Two NY weeks, 5 artists

  1. Great post! I too was introduced to Keith Jarrett in college and saw him perform. How lucky you are to have seen him at Carnegie Hall. We spent the better part of 2016 (literally and figuratively) in NYC and the access to culture was outstanding. I don’t think there is any other city on earth with so much available.

  2. I have always admired people who can improvise–but an entire concert?That’s amazing. I guess that is what many of us who write creatively do when we sit down to the blank screen or page. The last thing that knocked my socks off was a Chicago production of Wit, one in which an actress friend participated. It was my first time seeing the play and it touched a chord.

  3. I cannot think of a more perfect pairing than music and culture! Culture is the thread of humanity and I believe it’s what enables us to see the beauty and innocence in others. One of us favorite experiences was travelling in Belize and experiencing the vibrant culture and food. Really enjoying Ed Sheraan’s “castle on the hill” much to my surprise, I love the feeling of longing reminiscence and anticipation that the melody evokes. The most memorable show I attended to date was seeing Sade live in concert six years,

  4. what you’ve described, would be heaven for me. when you witness a gifted creative spirit, in whatever form, it always leaves an impression. i’ve not heard of keith jarrett, but i am amazed by his ability to improvise a concert and will certainly look him up. the performance that comes to mind for me, was seeing george winston play a piano concert live. i pictured him very buttoned-down and when we walked out on stage, in his black socks, made a humble and shy nod to the audience and just sat down and played lovely music for two hours. a simple nod at the end and he was gone. i’ll never forget it.

    1. Then you will LOVE Keith Jarrett — very similar sensibility in approach and form.

      Love Winston’s music.

      It is so revivifying, especially these days when everything feels anxious all the time, to remember that talent is all around us — and inside us to be nurtured.

    1. Thanks!

      It’s unusual for me to see so much culture in so short a time span, but that’s why some of us move to NY and stay here. The cost of living is crazy, but if you love culture, in all its forms (as I do), there’s a daily embarrassment of riches.

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