"I don’t know what my future is supposed to be," he said. "I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that."
Keith Jarrett, the renowned jazz and classical musician whose album The Köln Concert is one of the best-selling piano recordings in history, revealed that he is unlikely to perform in public again. The 75-year-old opened up about health issues that have plagued him over the past couple of years in a recent interview with The New York Times, where he revealed that he was left paralyzed by a series of strokes. Jarrett, whose last performance was in 2017 at Carnegie Hall, revealed that he had suffered a stroke in late February 2018, followed by another one that May.
"I was paralyzed," he said. "My left side is still partially paralyzed. I’m able to try to walk with a cane, but it took a long time for that, took a year or more. And I’m not getting around this house at all, really." Jarrett admitted that he didn't realize how serious his first stroke had been until a myriad of symptoms followed and he had to be taken to a hospital. "It definitely snuck up on me,” he said. Although he gradually recovered enough to be discharged, the legendary musician suffered a second stroke at home and was admitted to a nursing facility.
Jarrett revealed that he would occasionally visit the facility's piano room and play some right-handed counterpoint during his time there from July 2018 until this past May. "I was trying to pretend that I was Bach with one hand," he said. "But that was just toying with something." The composer also spoke about his Christian Science faith upbringing, said that he has somewhat returned to those spiritual moorings in light of his health concerns. "I don’t do the ‘why me’ thing very often," he said. "Because as a Christian Scientist, I would be expected to say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ And I was doing that somewhat when I was in the facility. I don’t know if I succeeded, though, because here I am."
Keith Jarrett, one of the most heralded pianists alive, revealed that he had two strokes in 2018. It is unlikely he will perform in public again. https://t.co/bsoazbIgiE— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 21, 2020
"I don’t know what my future is supposed to be," Jarrett added. "I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that. But when I hear two-handed piano music, it’s very frustrating, in a physical way. If I even hear Schubert, or something played softly, that’s enough for me. Because I know that I couldn’t do that. And I’m not expected to recover that. The most I’m expected to recover in my left hand is possibly the ability to hold a cup in it. So it’s not a ‘shoot the piano player’ thing. It’s: I already got shot."
Jarrett's health issues are likely to bring an end to his illustrious career, which began in 1964 after he moved to New York as a teenager and began playing in jazz groups including the likes of Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, and others. His 1975 double live album The Köln Concert brought new audiences to jazz with its long-form, beautifully sentimental improvisations and sold nearly four million copies. Now, as he confronts the truth that he has contributed all that he can to the world of music, Jarrett is also grappling with the likelihood that he will no longer experience a live audience watching him perform.
"Right now, I can’t even talk about this. That’s what I feel about it,” he said. "I can only play with my right hand, and it’s not convincing me anymore. I even have dreams where I am as messed up as I really am — so I’ve found myself trying to play in my dreams, but it’s just like real life."