Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jazz legend Keith Jarrett, 'stirring the pot', and educational justice

At the SF War Memorial Opera House on Sunday evening I was one of the few lucky people in the world! that experienced a rare solo performance by pianist extraordinaire Keith Jarrett. My older brother Ryan had seen a much younger Jarrett with the Miles Davis group in 1970 in Monterrey and again at the Winterland in SF. Besides Miles' band, he said the Grateful Dead also performed an amazing set that evening as well.
I remember my twin brother Gordon, an alto sax player in high school and college, turning me on to Jarrett’s My Song album way back in 78 while we were both aspiring jazz musicians at McClatchy and Kennedy high schools in Sacramento. The folksy ‘country’ and the beautiful ‘my song’ were my favorites from on that incredible album.
But what’s in my CD machine these days is Jarrett’s 1999 ballad album The Melody at Night With You that he dedicated to his wife Rose Anne with familiar standards like Someone to Watch Over Me, Shenandoah, and my 5-year old daughter’s favorite I Loves You Porgy.
I understand Garrett suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and struggled to put that album together while recovering from CFS. It is inspiring that he manages to perform and tour despite his CFS.
But the now 60 year old Jarrett played his heart out Saturday night with an amazing mixture of his new totally spontaneous ‘radiance’ music to tin pan alley-ish pieces and gorgeous ballads.
The audience was so appreciative that Jarrett did 5 encores – which included standards like As Time Goes By and It Might As Well Be Spring!

Jarrett’s self-reflection and constantly changing approach to his compositions and performances makes me think about the need for social justice activists and organizers to also constantly reflect on our practice and method as well.

SF Chronicle jazz writer David Rubien Chronicle Interview
did a great interview of Jarrett a week ago -
"Here I am a kind of mainstream accepted entity -- I have a big audience," Jarrett says. "Who else could take on the task or responsibility to try to burst another bubble that has been taken as reality? At the same time, I can explode my own myth.
"It's like a pot of soup on the stove. If you don't stir it occasionally, stuff sinks to the bottom and burns. Just for a brief time, I think I can be the person with the spoon who stirs the soup."
I think those of us working for educational equity and justice need to think and act like Keith Jarrett by always ‘stirring the pot’ and helping others, like students and parents to stir more from the bottom of the pot as well.

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