Somewhere in my quest to collect a whole heap of things by Keith Jarrett (not everything – because how could you?) I found out about this album. The Oddity In His Catalogue. Recorded and released in 1968 it is his second album. It is unlike anything else he’s made.
Jarrett is a jazz pianist. He’s also a classical pianist. He is also a keyboardist that has played in fusion ensembles and has created a wide range of music under the broad umbrella of jazz. Of course, he’s most famous for his Standards Trio recordings and shows and his solo piano performances.
But – he is also a multi-instrumentalist. And you can see on some of his album credits that he branches out from just piano and keys, but here on Restoration Ruin he barely plays very much piano. Instead playing guitar, bass, harmonica, drums, percussion, saxophone and recorder!
Also he sings. And not just on one song.
The entire album is the work of a singer/songwriter. It is not remotely jazzy. It is folk-rock. It is like Tim Buckley and Rodriguez and Bob Dylan and the band Love all decided to jam together – maybe with Donovan and The Incredible String Band too.
In fact there is a string quartet on the record – credited as “unidentified string quartet”, they feature on three of the tracks. The rest of the work here is by Jarrett.
What intrigues me most about this is that it is not a debut. This is not some false-start. Rather this the follow-up record to his debut record which is a relaxed, straight-ahead jazz offering. Instrumental. Featuring mostly original pieces.
Then, after that, he released this rather weird piece of sub-boho, baroque-folk/pop.
It’s not the only time that Jarrett has overdubbed himself on several instruments. But it is the only time he has recorded a batch of hippie-claptrap and mumbo-jumbo.
But, look, I sought this out – because I had to hear it after I’d read about it, this was before it was just easily stream-able. And what a quest. A hunt. So good to find it. And hear it.
And I genuinely love it. Would I love it without the weird storyline-aspect? Probably not. Part of what I love about this is its intriguing sidestep. Just bizarre.
But also I’m drawn to the weird records that dot in and around the brilliant and stately Jarrett ones.
In 2013 he finally released No End – a double album of instrumental noodling that he created in his home studio in the mid-80s. It’s full of weird Santana-esque guitar spirals and funk-less drumming. It feels like guide-tracks for a bigger set of orchestrations that never happened. And it’s not good. But it is great! And if that doesn’t make sense then why are you still reading?
Anyway, I feel the same way about Restoration. Except I like it even more. The songs are little throwaway folk-rock ditties. And he’s not a great singer. But there’s just something so beguiling here.
Also, I’m convinced that if it was re-released under another name it would be one of those genuine Record Collector Marvels. But because it’s Jarrett, legendary pianist, legendary jazzer, classical player also, that seems to meant it’s only ever treated as a folly. Which, I guess, it is. In the scheme of things.
The other thing that’s so intriguing about this is how it just instantly reached dud-status. And Jarrett returned himself to the world of jazz. Never to revisit this particular style on a record.
There are some cool songs in here – like Have A Real Time. Which, again, is probably not actually good. But I love it. I think it’s a great indicator of the weirdness on this record. But it’s really only weird because of who it is and how we know him, right?
Anyway, I’m rather obsessed with Restoration Ruin. I’m convinced it’s deserving of a special vinyl repress. But it seems everyone involved has wiped their hands of it long ago.
Also it clocks in – 10 tracks – at just under half an hour. That is so utterly perfect. Lol.