Private Fire

Keith Jarrett draws one shimmering copper colored note from his piano. Then another. Now, laying down a chord the way Monet laid down a painting. From that one chord comes the melody. Maybe recognizable—“There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us.” But the recognition of the piece doesn’t really matter.

Open your eyes and watch this guy carefully. You’ve looked him up on You Tube. Or, you’re in the 9th row of Orchestra Hall in Chicago on a rainy September Saturday night. Basking in the echoes of all the music that’s poured over you inside those acoustically perfect walls.

Keith Jarrett is celebrating 25 years of a trio, with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. Two elder statesmen of musical depth who don’t just provide rhythm; with bass and drums they are the rhythm, the rhythm that anchors the soaring golden tones of Jarrett somewhere near solid ground. Or they take him along to give purity to be-bop. Many would say that’s a contradiction, and that’s okay.

Because there simply is no one else like Keith Jarrett. You watch him create and you realize just what it means to create. Every whimper, every groan, and every shout of joy from wherever it is he goes when he creates. The way he moves on the piano bench. No other human being has a spine like his. If you were to see him in mid-song, literally slide up over the keyboard and into the piano, bouncing and vibrating on the strings with only his feet sticking out to accentuate a line: you wouldn’t be surprised.

Listen hard, and something else starts to happen. Something that happens nowhere else, dancing in the interplay of the handoffs from piano, bass to drums, with a pristine clarity of tone, you realize that there is a bridge these artists are painting, a bridge that starts on the walls of your very soul. A bridge that reaches the part of you that is only you and no one else.

You stand on that bridge and your mind is so sharp, so clear: that where you are right that second doesn’t even matter. The music has prompted you to think. Why think? Why not feel, just hover, or float away on the music?

Because as the shimmering blues and cool green crystal of this music propels you forward, walking on the bridge Keith Jarrett has built to somewhere: you can clearly see whatever it is you are up against right this second. Your own very most private challenge. The thing that’s holding you back. That stopped you cold. You can see it, and as you see it—you can name it:

Today I am alive. I will get through this thing I’m going through now. There will be a job for me where I can add all I want to add to the world. That person now gone from my life: I can handle that. Maybe not now but I will. That sorrow as our beloved country bends to its knees weighted down by the loss of our very moral center. That collective groan of horror that goes out across the world as we look at what we’ve collectively become.

Today I am alive.

Your step feels so light on Keith Jarrett’s bridge to somewhere, that it brings you back into this world. The lights go up. The performers bow and take their leave…but the music stays.

As if the musician’s hand tossed you a golden, braided rope and yanked you through your own private fire.


Edited by L.C. Neal
This piece was originally published on

3 Responses to “Private Fire”

  1. bikepsychobabble Says:

    Beautifully said!

  2. DjM Says:

    very well put my friend… one of the true creative geniuses of the 21st century

  3. Paulhaider74 Says:

    I can hear the music in this post!

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