Pianist Keith Jarrett unlikely to perform again after two strokes

Ben Beaumont-Thomas
·2 min read

Keith Jarrett, the jazz and classical musician whose album The Köln Concert is one of the best-selling piano recordings in history, has announced that he is unlikely to perform again after two strokes.

The 75-year-old told the New York Times that he suffered the strokes in February and May of 2018, and was left temporarily paralysed. “My left side is still partially paralysed. I’m able to try to walk with a cane, but it took a long time for that – took a year or more,” he said. He spent nearly two years in a nursing facility.

He added: '“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.”

His condition is likely to bring an illustrious career to an end. It began in 1964 after he moved to New York as a teenager, playing in jazz groups, first with Art Blakey and then, in the early 1970s, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette and others. He also began releasing solo material, with 1975’s double live album The Köln Concert bringing new audiences to jazz with its long-form, beautifully sentimental improvisations. It has sold nearly 4m copies.

Jarrett has faced other health problems during his life. He was wearing a brace for back problems at the time of The Köln Concert, and announced in 1998 that he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Despite those ailments he has kept up a regular schedule of album releases throughout his life, often as live recordings and in a long relationship with the label ECM. His most recent release was 2018’s After the Fall, originally recorded in 1998.

“I don’t know what my future is supposed to be,” he told the New York Times. “I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that.”