Keith Jarrett (born May 8, 1945) is considered among the most important living jazz piano players. He was born in Allentown, USA into an ethnically mixed family as the oldest of five boys. He started taking piano lessons at the age of three and played his first concert at age nine, and from age 12 onward played professionally from time to time.
Jarrett grew up with a classical musical background, but in his teens he learned about jazz and immediately excelled in it. Moving from his hometown, he came to Boston, there attending the Berklee School of Music and on the side playing some cocktail piano. After about a year, he went to New York, and struggling hard to get other musician's attention, he got a chance to sit in at the Village Vanguard, and Art Blakey immediately hired him to play with his Jazz Messengers band. After a little time he came one of the members in the Charles Lloyd Quartet. That band came to an end though, but he was discovered by Miles Davis who heard him on a club in New York. Miles Davis almost forced him to play in his group as a keyboardist. The group also featured Chick Corea on keyboard. Jarrett left after some time ready to focus on his own career more.
In 1973 Jarrett began playing his famous solo concerts. The concerts were totally improvised, and one can't always call them either jazz or classical, because he is very good at mixing styles. His solo concert albums include "Solo Concerts", "Köln Concert" and "La Scala".
In the late 60s he played in an American quartet with drummer Paul Motian and bass player Charlie Haden. In the seventies he formed what is known as the European Quartet consisting of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson, and drummer Jon Christensen.
During his jazz career, he has also had a classical music career. His recordings in that area includes Bach's "Das wohltemperierte Klavier" and Shostakovich's "24 Preludes and Fugues".
Dissatisfied with the classical world, he turned his attention to jazz once again. He asked bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette to record an album with standards only. He album was given the name "Standards, Volume 1". The trio has continued to record until this day, producing many fine recordings such as "Bye Bye Blackbird - A tribute to Miles Davis", "The Cure" and "Standards, Volume 2". The trio regularly tour around the world, and many of the concerts have been recorded such as "Live at the Deer Head Inn", "Still Live" and "Up For It - Live at Juan Les Pins".
Jarrett also plays harpsichord, clavichord, organ, and saxophone . An example of that can be heard in particular on his "Sprits" album, "Invocations", and "Spheres". One of the charasteristics of Jarrett is his frequent emotive vocalizations and his dance-like movements while playing.
Ian Carr has written a book called "Keith Jarrett: The Man and His Music", which is an account of Jarrett's life up to 1992.