One of the most significant pianists to emerge since the 1960s, Keith Jarrett's career has gone through several phases. He gained international fame for his solo concerts, which found him spontaneously improvising all of the music without any prior planning; but he has also led a couple of dynamic quartets/quintets, performed classical music, and later played explorative versions of standards with his longtime trio. Although his tendency to sing along with his piano now and then is distracting, Jarrett continued to grow as a powerful improviser after decades of important accomplishments.
Jarrett started on the piano when he was three, and by the time he was seven he had already played a recital. Jarrett was a professional while still in grade school. In 1962, he studied at the Berklee College of Music and then started working in the Boston area with his trio. He moved to New York in 1965, and spent four months with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. As a member of the very popular Charles Lloyd Quartet (1966-1969), Jarrett traveled the world and became well known; he also began doubling occasionally on soprano saxophone (which he would utilize through the 1970s). Between 1969 and 1971, he was with Miles Davis' fusion group, playing organ and electric keyboards.
Upon leaving Davis, Jarrett permanently swore off electric keyboards. He had cut sessions as a leader for Vortex (1967-1969) and Atlantic (1971), but starting in November 1971, he recorded extensively for ECM, an association that continued into the 2000s. In the 1970s, Jarrett led two groups: an exciting unit with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, and occasional percussionists (often Guilherme Franco); and a European band with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, and Jon Christensen that recorded the popular "My Song." In addition, starting in 1972, Jarrett began his famous series of improvised concerts, which resulted in such popular recordings as Solo Concerts, Köln Concert, and the mammoth Sun Bear Concerts. By the 1980s, Jarrett was performing and composing classical music as much as jazz, playing a variety of keyboard instruments and a variety of music ranging from Bach to Pärt. He has worked with recorder player Michala Petri, violinist Gidon Kremer, and conductor Dennis Russell Davies. Jarrett's own compositions include several works for soloist and orchestra and works for piano, clavichord, and organ. Of his classical recordings, his Handel Keyboard Suites have been hailed as the best on record.