At 34, John Legend has sold millions of records, won nine Grammys, collaborated with many of the biggest stars in music (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, The Roots, et al), and achieved the kind of statesmanlike musical-ambassador status usually afforded to artists twice his age. He is, in short, the sort of star who doesn’t usually perform behind desks in offices.
But once we’d wedged a piano back there, Legend sounded perfectly at home. His rich, soulful voice never suffered for a lack of processing and production as he performed three songs for NPR Music and a few hundred of our rapt coworkers, loved ones and hangers-on.
Though he recently released a fine new album titled Love in the Future, from which “Made to Love” and “All of Me” were drawn for this set, Legend took special care to provide the backstory for “Move,” which he’d recorded for the soundtrack to 12 Years a Slave. Legend executive-produced that soundtrack himself — don’t be surprised if you wind up hearing him perform “Move” again on Oscar night — and recorded the album version with U.K. musician Fink. Here, though, it’s stripped down considerably, with just Legend’s piano and the acoustic guitar of guest Bobby Anderson providing accompaniment.
Legend doesn’t play settings this intimate very often, and it’s not as if he has anything to prove at this point in his career. But, just in case he did, he retains a busker’s lung capacity, the charisma of a born star and the easygoing grace of a performer fit for any stage — even a tiny one. —STEPHEN THOMPSON
“Made To Love”
“All Of Me”
Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Becky Harlan, Abbey Oldham, Meredith Rizzo
Bruce performing “Schoenberg Concerto - Paperboy” at The ALS Association DC/MD/VA Chapter benefit concert on 9/25/10 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach, VA.
Many people know this song as “Danny Boy,” but those are just the most popular lyrics for this old Irish tune called “Londonderry Air.” And Keith Jarrett’s solo version of it is definitely one of the most beautiful ever recorded. The internal harmonies he improvises around the melody here are really stunning; especially from about the 4:00 point. Just amazing stuff.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Keith Jarrett, in Japan. In 1973. In a tiny, smoky, crowded sushi bar/jazz club in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, drinking hot sake, transported to a new understanding of music. The realization that a human being could improvise such transcendent music was a huge inspiration, a door opening to a new universe of possibilities. That night we listened to the entire vinyl recording of Facing You and it changed my life.
The Köln Concert was released two years later in 1975, and it remains one of the pinnacles of Jarrett’s live improvised work, with moments so beautiful they’re not of this earth. This YouTube recording is the full album, in high resolution.
Keith Jarrett’s encore improvisation from his 1984 solo concert in Tokyo is simply one of the most amazing feats of pianistic technique I’ve ever seen. This video focuses on his hands much of the time, so any piano players out there may want to have a box of tissues handy; you’ll be weeping after you watch.Youtube Video
Every few years I rediscover a monumental work of improvisation, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever recorded: Keith Jarrett’s Solo Concerts: Bremen & Lausanne. I first heard this record in a small sushi bar in Tokyo in 1974, and it hasn’t aged; if anything, it’s more moving and profound than ever.
This four-part video playlist is the second half of the Lausanne concert, beginning with Keith going inside the piano. (The sound is slightly better if you switch the video to 480p.)
This is a 1982 live recording of a Keith Jarrett solo concert in Hamburg, Germany, in which Keith totally reinvents the jazz standard “All The Things You Are,” in a mind-blowing improvisation that takes the tune places it’s never been. The audio track isn’t great, but the performance definitely is.
At Tokyo’s Metropolitan Festival Hall in October 2002, here’s Keith Jarrett performing the classic tune “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler. Just gorgeous playing.
Our Tuesday afternoon insanity break is a live recording (audio only) of a Keith Jarrett solo piano concert in Berlin, 2009, with a transcendently beautiful version of his classic composition “My Song.”
This tune is one of the most gorgeous melodies ever written, in my opinion; it originally appeared on the album by that name with his European Quartet: Jan Garbarek (sax), Palle Danielsson (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums). Keith adds an especially moving introduction to this live version.
A rare Saturday Night Live appearance by Keith Jarrett, performing a solo piano version of his beautiful tune My Song.