As other reviews have hinted this is Jarrett at his most angular and awkward, with his lyrical gifts only infrequently on show. In contrast to most of his concert CDs rather than a couple of very long tracks, we get 18 relatively short pieces, ranging from 1 and a half minutes to 14. These vary in style but edgy tense themes predominate - which seems somewhat at odds with the CDs title.
No questioning Jarrett's abilities, or the quality of the recording, but somehow I've never really got on with this collection.
"Radiance" will seem to some listeners to be an ironic title for what at first seems to be Jarrett's most shadowy piano improvisation to date. There is a restlessness and tension in this pair of performances that finds focus in the repeated single notes that float across several of the individual tracks: repeated notes that it's tempting to read in biographical terms as representing Jarrett's inability to perform during his period of serious illness. This is at times very anxious music, where hints of academic modernism reach a renewed prominence amongst Jarrett's trademark blend of influences: gospel, classical, folk, jazz, blues, opera and world music. This is not to say that Jarrett's lyrical gifts are diminished. Part Three, for example, is a beautifully realised and expressive ballad, while Part Six is a lyrical outpouring as intense as anything in Jarrett's career. In Part Eight, we are even given a relaxed and charming country song. But those who have dismissed Jarrett in the past as "jazz lite" - beautifully phrased but devoid of anything to say - will be staggered by the depth and complexity of the longer improvisations here, which hold more in common with the dense "tropical nocturnes" of Sorabji than they do with the pastoral tranquillity that opens "The Koln Concert". This is not the first time that Jarrett has been dissonant: you can find plenty of this in his early modern jazz work, and some of it in the piano concerts of the mid-seventies, such as Lausanne. Rarely, however, has his use of dissonance had greater emotional impact, or been as accessible to a classical music audience. This is a major album by a great talent. While it is less accessible to new listeners than the concerts at Paris, Koln, Bremen and Vienna, it ultimately perhaps more rewarding than any of them.
This double CD captures some of the most inspired moments that have been recorded of Keith Jarrett's solo performances. As he says in the liner notes, there had been no preconceived ideas whatsoever. Jarrett goes from the atonal to the modal to the romantic to the archaic without getting stuck anywhere for too long. So, instead of the one or two tracks one usually finds on his recitals corresponding to the sets before and after the intermission, this time, there are thirteen tracks that constitute the Osaka concert. Even though they are recorded without a pause and run into each other here and there, they are actually episodes which are inspired by the music before but which take things to different places. Jarrett transcends the numerous sources from which he has been inspired. Only in the Osaka encores, he clearly pays homage to his Jazz roots. The fact that the coughs were not eliminated afterwards in the studio gives the music an even greater feel of authenticity than usual. Jarrett seems to have finally and completely conquered his CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) which had kept him down in the nineties.
To fill the second CD, ECM took pieces from another concert (Tokyo), which will be released in full length on DVD.
CDs by Keith Jarrett are always way above the average, he's in a class of his own. With such an abundance of recorded solo concerts available, it's not easy to choose unless one buys all of them. But Radiance is clearly a very special release and among the best, such as Solo Concerts: Bremen and Lausanne and The Köln Concert. Compared to those highlights from the seventies, Jarrett's development is astounding. As uncouth as it may sound, for Keith Jarrett CFS may have been a blessing. Though he had been an extraordinarily gifted musician, this album suggests the man has reached a new plateau from which to go and to grow.
To sit and listen to Keith Karrett's piano, particularly when it entails his solo improvisations on the piano, puts me in a state of awe before the first note is touched on his keyboard. Yet, saying this stems less from the faithful love of a long-time fan but rather from the recognition of the quality and depth of a man's work over so many years. "Radiance," his first solo offering in many years, can only reaffirm my appreciation and anticipation for the depth and range of moods he has me accustomed to, with his recordings. Throughout the seventeen pieces selected for this double CD release, Jarrett, again, conjures up moments of sublime tenderness and vivid and soulful conflict. Not knowing in much detail about his ordeal with chronic fatigue, the compositions included here seem to portrait the range of emotions of a man that has gone through a journey of initiation. At times, through melodies that evoke a profound sense of personal peace or bound to stir some ancient pains, whether the notes seem to flow or be painfully forced out of a difficult confession, the album as a whole confirms Jarrett's artistic stature and the maturity and deep honesty of his current work. Jarret's a virtuoso, yet this not only accounts for his exquisite technique but, even more, for the troubled vulnerability he can express so vividly on each of these pieces. It's hard not to be moved by the wondrous combination of blissful and disturbing truths coming out of his piano. So, my awe has been more than justified, and my gratefulness for a work of such emotional and austere beauty cannot sufficiently do justice to what you are about to hear in these two CDs. This is one of the most moving, intelligent and courageously vulnerable sets, in any genre, I have heard in a long time.
I have listened to Jarrett for years and have found him the most frustrating artist to listen to, but conversely someone who can take you to the most beautiful places if you let your mind flow with the music. I am not a purist for this type of music but speak only as an affectionado who has stuck with Jarrett because he has the capability to produce music that is ecstatic and sublime. This is so clear to anyone who has listened to some of his solo work. This album show flashes of his brilliance in producing music that is so satisfying that it justifies the determination it takes to get into it, for much of it is not an easy listen. With Jarrett you do not have the luxury of titles so the music has to stand on its own, so let me just say that track 6 disc 1 followed by track 3 will more than warrant your purchase as they are up there with Koln and some of the most beautiful work from Staircase. More than worthy of your attention!