What Keith Jarrett’s masterpiece on a wonky piano shows
The prevalence of counterintuitive results in disparate fields is a reminder that we know less about the world — and about our reaction to it — than we like to think
Keith Jarrett’s 1975 concert in Cologne should have been a musical catastrophe. Owing to a string of mix-ups and bad luck, he was faced with the choice of attempting his widely admired improvisations on a beaten-up old piano with sticky keys and a harsh upper register — or walking out altogether.
He was all for walking out, but felt sorry for the concert promoter and agreed to play the unplayable piano against his better judgment. The result was not a catastrophe but a masterpiece, and a bestselling one at that: The Köln Concert album.