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Jazz Pianist Keith Jarrett.

Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett. Called one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz, Jarrett was famous for his wildly passionate solo recitals. In 1996, Jarrett came down with a mysterious illness—- an interstitial bacterial parasite-- that caused him to stop performing for about two and a half years. Jarrett has started performing and recording again, but he still keeps a low public profile, so his condition will not worsen again. His newest CD, Whisper Not (Universal Classics), will be released next month. His other recent CD, Melody at Night, With You, was a solo album Jarrett recorded at his home studio in rural New Jersey




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Other segments from the episode on September 11, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 11, 2000: Interview with Keith Jarrett; Commentary on the Emmy Awards.


DATE September 11, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Pianist Keith Jarrett discusses his new music, as
well as his recent illness

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. One of the most famous pianists in jazz,
Keith Jarrett, a musician acclaimed for his emotional intensity and his
physically energetic, improvised, solo, piano performances, has had to keep
his playing to a minimum in the past few years. He's had chronic fatigue
syndrome since 1996. We recorded an interview with him from his home and
discussed how his illness has changed his approach to music. We also talked
about his childhood in Allentown, Pennsylvania, when he was a piano prodigy.
Jarrett says his health is improving, and he estimates that he is now about
70-percent recovered.

Last year, he released a solo album of ballads called "The Melody At Night,
With You," which was recorded at his home. We'll listen to some of it. And
we'll also preview his new trio CD of standards, called "Whisper Not," which
will be released in October.

Jarrett used to be pretty manic in concert and very obsessive about his
playing. I asked him how those traits have been affected by chronic fatigue

Mr. KEITH JARRETT: I had to change everything about my approach before I
could even start to play again. And "The Melody At Night, With You" was--is
never going to be--there won't be another recording that's more important to
me, in many ways. But one of them that I can explain easily is that I had
not played for a long time. And I didn't know if I would ever play again.
And when you re--it's something I did since I was three years old. So when I
was able to sit at the piano without being sick and play a little bit, there
was a way of dealing with economy that is way past anything I can imagine
doing when I'm well. It's hard to describe. It's almost like the disease
made it possible to deal with the skeleton instead of the surface, you
know--just the heart of things, because there was no energy for more than

GROSS: What about the mental focus, though, to figure out what the skeleton
is--where it is?

Mr. JARRETT: That came--comes and goes. And I was already on the therapy
that I'm still on at the time. And it was one of the things that was
slowly--the connection between my brain and hands was starting to return
enough that--and I added kind of a way of thinking about playing that music.
I didn't want to be clever because I didn't want to get into my old habit
patterns. In a way, that's what an improviser always wants. And, in this
case, I was forced to be that way, more than ever. And so I was starting at
zero and being born again at the keyboard. And that's what comes through, I

GROSS: I love listening to music, but I find, for instance, if I have a
headache that music loses its appeal to me; that I just can't focus on it.

Mr. JARRETT: Right. And I couldn't listen to music...

GROSS: Really, mm-hmm.

Mr. JARRETT: ...for two years at all. I mean--well, what happens to chronic
fatigue--I use that term, although I disagree with the title of the disease.
But what happens to a person that's sick is that they can't even do things
they enjoy, in the same way you're describing the headache. But you don't
have a headache. And that's really weird for a musician or a music lover.
Suddenly, music means absolutely nothing. And I remember sort of
philosophically asking myself, and even other musicians, `What really is
music? I mean, is it important? Does it matter at all?' And I was in an
existential state that actually--I mean, that would be an appropriate question
from that state.

GROSS: So it must have been thrilling when you didn't have to ask that
question anymore; when you just understood why you loved it.

Mr. JARRETT: Well, actually, it altered everything about how I perceive
music and how I perceive its importance. And it's not going to change. I
mean, when I get 100 percent well, that's going to be with me because it's
something, I think, you're given an insight to if you're compromised in a way
that you never get that insight otherwise. You're too busy being a player.

GROSS: So if I said to you, `Now, Keith Jarrett, what is the importance of;
what is the meaning of music?' What would you say?

Mr. JARRETT: I'd say I don't know. I might have had an answer for you
before. I think--I would say I don't know, and it's not really important to

GROSS: Well, I want to play a track from the album that you were just talking
about, "The Melody At Night, With You"--the album in which you first got back
to playing after feeling too sick to play.

Mr. JARRETT: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And I thought I'd play, "Be My Love," because I particularly like it
when a composer takes a song that I didn't think of myself as liking very much
and does something wonderful with it. And I just--I really love what you've
done with this.

Mr. JARRETT: Well, can I explain what was going on in my...

GROSS: Please.

Mr. JARRETT: ...head while I was doing these songs?

GROSS: Please.

Mr. JARRETT: That's a good example. You probably know the story that it
wasn't meant for release, and it was as a Christmas present for my wife. But
if you don't, that is the story. I couldn't leave my house, so I--and I
couldn't go buy anything or, you know, get a present. So I realized all I had
to do was--simple sounding, but not so simple--turn on the tape recorder.
Luckily, I had set mikes up over a long period of time, looking for the right
spot; looking for the right mikes; thinking a little bit ahead. After I got
sick, that was one of the things I could just do for a few minutes a day in
case I had music that I wanted to record and couldn't leave the house.

And so when I started doing it, the songs came to me because of the lyrics.
So when I was playing these melodies and songs, I was definitely singing them
inside. And I would never have chosen, just as you mentioned your
relationship to that song--I would never have even thought of the song, but it
popped into my head because of the context I was in. And it was a present, so
it became a personal thing to give. And then so it got transformed that way,
I think.

GROSS: Well, the lyrics by Sammy Cahn on this. Well, I love what you've done
with it. This is Keith Jarrett at the piano, recorded last year from his CD,
"The Melody At Night, With You," and the song is "Be My Love."

(Soundbite of "Be My Love")

GROSS: That's Keith Jarrett playing "Be My Love" from his recent CD, "The
Melody At Night, With You." He has a new CD that will be released October
10th, and that's called "Whisper Not."

Getting back to "Be My Love," this is a song, really, associated with Mario
Lanza. Did you like his recording of it? Did you ever pay much attention to

Mr. JARRETT: Oh, I know I've heard it--I heard it when I was a kid. No, I
never like it at all, probably.

GROSS: Yeah, me neither.

Mr. JARRETT: Now there's so much to say about each song, because of the way
the piano--I had had my piano overhauled in a special action--a major change
in the action. It gets technical if I try to describe it, but all the things
that hap--that were a part of that recording, without one of them, it would
have failed. I would have, maybe, had something to give to my wife, but I
wouldn't have listened to it and thought it would translate into everyone's

GROSS: So what you did was change the action on the piano so that you could
have a lighter touch and still have the piano resonate?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, no. It's actually more complicated than that. There's a
thing called the breakaway, which is like surface tension on water. Every
piano--that's stock from any company that I know of--has a breakaway. In
other words, when you first push the key down, it's harder, and then it's not.
So if you wanted to play very, very soft, you still would be taking a giant
risk because you'd have to press hard first, and then you'd have to let up
before you hit the string.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JARRETT: And that's what every pianist is dealing with all the time.
And there--I heard about someone who was able to, using little springs and a
whole barrage of ideas, including taking all the parts out of the piano, and
weighing them all, and making them exactly the same weigh--every little piece
of wood and metal, I guess--all the bushings. Everything had to be the same
exact weight first. Then he has a way where that breakaway doesn't exist, but
the action's the same weight--resistance against your finger. So it's a more
liquid action when you press down. If you want to play loud, you can still
play loud, but there's not that initial snap. You don't need to snap the key.
So if you listen to "The Melody At Night, With You" on a good system, you
notice the dynamic range is pretty wide for a piano recording that sounds so
closely miked. And I think that's a lot to do with that action.

Then, also, I had the--it's a German Steinway. And I used to--that used to be
my favorite of the Steinways. I used to prefer it to the American Steinway.
But that started to change in my mind, and I started to dislike the glassy
sound of the German instrument, so what I did was I had a different set of
hammers that's often used on the American instruments, put on the German
piano. We're talking about the same piano.

So it had these two major modifications, and it was settling in. It was very
green when I recorded that music. And since that recording, it's gotten worse
and worse. In other words, it was meant to happen when it happened. It--you
know, pianos actually change a lot over time. And it was at a certain little
phase of its newbornness that must have coincided with my newborn relationship
to the keyboard.

GROSS: So can you not use it anymore?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, I wouldn't--I'd have to have it worked on to--if I wanted
to do any more music like that, I'd have to have it--some attempt made at--I
don't know what. I wouldn't even know how to explain it to someone--what
would make the sound right.

GROSS: My guest is Keith Jarrett. His new CD, "Whisper Not," will be
released next month. We'll talk more after our break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is pianist and composer Keith

Had you ever been in the world of the sick before--before getting CFS?

Mr. JARRETT: No, not to that--no, not to any degree that I could say I had a
disease. I, you know, had my usual--what most people have--some occasional
infections or flus and stuff.

GROSS: What was it like trying to get a diagnosis?

Mr. JARRETT: Actually, this is interesting. I was making a call to a man
who sold microphones. I was looking for a better mike for recording in my
studio here. And on that phone call, he asked me how I was. And I said,
`Oh, I'm sick. I'm not very well.' And he asked me what I thought I had.
And he said he had a friend who had been bedridden for almost two years, and
she was getting slightly better and I should talk to her 'cause she knew all
the research that was being done.

And then I called her because that's what you do. You don't get--ettiquette
doesn't enter into this anymore. You--it doesn't matter. You can call
anybody and say, `How do I get out of this?' And she told me about someone
who was conducting a study based on this being an airborne pathogen and a
bacterial parasite and was having some great results with muscular--with MS

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JARRETT: ...and CFS patients. And I called him; talked to him; got my
local doctor to talk to him. And he was blown away by the breadth of this
man's knowledge. And that's how I got on this program. The interesting thing
is the mike I was looking for is the mike that I used for "The Melody At
Night, With You." So not only did my sickness have something to do with the
music, but it had something to do with--but the mikes had something to do with
my getting well.

GROSS: Let me play another track from your new CD, "Whisper Not," which will
be released October 10th.

Mr. JARRETT: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So this is a preview. And this is "Bouncin' With Bud," the--tell me
why you chose "Bouncin' With Bud," and what it's like for you to play this
kind of bop tune after being so lacking in energy for so long.

Mr. JARRETT: Well, actually, one of the reasons bop came into the process so
classically is that when I started rehearsing--we don't normally have
rehearsals, the trio. In fact, we didn't have any rehearsals till I got
sick. And I wondered how it would work if we played. And every time we
rehearsed--the two or three times we rehearsed, I had an immediate relapse.
In fact, some of them were happening while we were playing. I really felt
absolutely miserable as a result of rehearsing.

But before we started rehearsing, I had started to play at home for short
periods during the day. And I noticed that there were a lot of things I
wanted to change for the future, if I were to play with the trio. And some of
them had to do with lightness of touch, and nothing to do with how sick I
was, exactly, but it came from that--from breaking down and then thinking I
might not ever play again, which means all I've got is what I've recorded up
till now. And when I listened to this stuff, I, basically, didn't like any
of it. But, of course, I was in a not-liking-music place. But I really
disliked some of the ways I played. And some of the long introductions I
didn't think were necessary all the time--various things. And one of the
things was that I was digging in all the time. And I thought back and
realized it probably was from playing in large halls, trying to project--when
you're playing in a large hall, you just, naturally, try to push the sound
out to the 3,000 people. And I decided I didn't want to do that. I wanted
to find a way to--if we had to get the sound out there, we'll just have to
deal with the monitor situation somehow.

But I wanted to keep us playing more the way we would play in a club. And to
get the lightness I was looking for, I thought, `Let's just go straight to the
bop era, because it's--there's a lot of energy in the playing in the bop era,
but you don't have--but it's not--you're not crushing the keyboard when you're
playing." You're--there's a certain lightness in music. And I'm--it's funny
to talk about it, when we talk about the recording because that piano was like
a Mack truck, so I had to really--no matter how light I wanted to play, I
wasn't playing lightly. But I was still getting the kind of thing I'm talking

GROSS: We'll continue our interview with Keith Jarrett in the second half of
the show. Here's "Bouncin' With Bud" from Jarrett's new CD of standards,
"Whisper Not." It features Gary Peacock on bass, Jack Dejohnette, drums. It
will be released in October. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Bouncin' With Bud")


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with pianist and composer Keith Jarrett. He's recovering from chronic
fatigue syndrome and is playing and recording again, but on a a very limited
basis. His new trio recording of standards, "Whisper Not," will be released
in October. Before we talk about his childhood, when he was a piano prodigy,
let's listen to his 1999 CD of music by Mozart.

(Soundbite from Keith Jarrett song)

GROSS: Let's talk a little bit about your early life. You started playing
piano when you were awfully young. You were born in Allentown in 1945.
Allentown's just a couple of hours north of Philadelphia. You started taking
piano lessons when you were three, which I think is uncommonly early. Why did
your parents get you a teacher at such a young age?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, they discovered I had a perfect pitch. So...

GROSS: How'd they discover that?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, there was an old, converted player piano. It was just in
the house, and I think no one really played it all. And I ended up sitting at
the piano, picking out melodies that were coming out of the radio. And I
guess they figured it out; that something was going on here, you know. This
should--`Either get him away from that instrument or get him a teacher.'

GROSS: A lot of people barely have any memories from the time that they were
three years old. Do you have many memories of those very early piano lessons?

Mr. JARRETT: Not really. I remember the gate at the top of my piano
teacher's stairway so that, I guess, the little kids she taught wouldn't fall
down the stairs. It's like--I think I remember that the piano was to the left
of the top of the stairs, but I don't remember anything else.

GROSS: And you don't remember what you were first taught to play?

Mr. JARRETT: Not really, no.

GROSS: Do you remember what you were praised or criticized for by that first

Mr. JARRETT: Nope. No, I don't. I really don't. I don't remember--I'm sure
it was a woman, and that's about all I know. I do remember, however, a few
years later when I got my second--I believe it was my second--teacher, who
was, of course, a more serious piano teacher. At the point I was at, I guess
it was a given that there was something happening here. And they had to try
to find someone who took me further.

And I don't know how old I was, but I do know that I hated this guy. And I do
know that now, I believe, he probably gave me the most of any teacher in such
a short time. And he did not let me use the pedal. He gave me only Bartok.
And I was just a little kid. I mean, Bartok was not particularly pleasant
music for a little kid to be learning. And I played the violin at the time--I
started to play the violin, and I really liked that, too. And one day he
said--and I guess he had a--I think he was German, and he had an accent. He
said, `You must choose.' And I said, `What?' He said, `You must choose which
instrument you play.' And I said, `Oh, you have to be kidding. I like them
both.' `Well, you have great talent, but you have to put this talent in one

And I went home, and I was really upset, and I didn't know what to do, and he
wasn't going to teach me, you know. So I eventually chose the piano, I guess
partially based on the fact that I played it a little longer. But he was
right about all the things he taught me. I mean, there's such a--the pedal is
something you can really overuse to the point of covering up what you're
unable to do. He just discipline me in an important way.

GROSS: As you got a little bit older, in your pre-teen and teen years, did
playing piano earn you the admiration or the mockery of friends? Friends can
sometimes really mock you for being very serious about something.

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah. I was a normal kid by the time I was in junior high and
high school, which were public schools. I just was a normal kid. I mean, I
didn't want to practice. I went out and wanted to play basketball. If my
grandmother wasn't in the kitchen, I'd move the timer forward that was
supposed to go off when I was able to stop practicing, that kind of thing.
And she was--she probably knew I was doing it, but she was so kindhearted that
she didn't--you know, she had never...

GROSS: Whose idea was the timer?

Mr. JARRETT: Probably my mother's because she wasn't home, and so my
grandmother was keeping this two-and-a-half-hour practice schedule, or
whatever it was I had at the time.

GROSS: Did you resent having to practice that much?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, I did, and then I would say something--or I might say
something about it, and my parents would say, `Well, you know, we don't have
that much money. We'll sell the piano.' And I would immediately give up my
position because I loved it. I loved doing that. So, I mean, I knew that
playing piano was important to me.

GROSS: You know, I think a lot of musicians who started off as prodigies go
through a period where they're really confused about whether they're staying
in music because they love music or whether they're staying because it's what
they've always done and it's what people have always expected them to do and
it's what adults almost required them to do.

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah.

GROSS: And some former prodigies go through a period of rebelling against
music and against the discipline that's been enforced all their lives. Did
you go through a period like that ever?

Mr. JARRETT: No. Nope. No, I think I had a calling, and I think I knew that
from the time I have any memories, you know. No, I didn't go through that. I
just would have rather been out playing basketball, you know. I thought, `I
could get this practicing in some other time.'

GROSS: Your parents divorced when you were 11. Did that interfere with your
ability to focus on music?

Mr. JARRETT: I think it made me more ferociously focused on music. One
phenomenal thing about being a musician and, in particular, I guess, playing
an instrument that doesn't need other instruments to play with, like a piano
or a guitar, is that you can change any mental state or emotional state you're
in into music. And it's a transformative thing. And, I mean, I learned
that--I guess I learned that a very, very young age. If I was angry, I'd go
play the piano, and I might not play angry music. But everything is energy,
and you can change the direction those arrows are pointing. It's just that
you have to use the energy somehow. And when I sometimes talk to my sons, who
are both musicians and want to be, you know, in music, that's about the best
thing I can say about music; that it's for the player, you know. It's a way
of knowing where you're at and what you're feeling.

GROSS: My guest is Keith Jarrett. We'll talk more after a break. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with pianist and composer Keith
Jarrett. His new CD, "Whisper Not," will be released in October. When we
left off, we were talking about his childhood when he was a classical prodigy.
I asked him how he realized he wanted to play jazz.

Mr. JARRETT: Well, when I heard jazz in Allentown in my early teens,
probably 12, 13, and I heard--let's see, I think I heard Andre Previn because,
you know, Allentown was not a center of jazz culture. I think the Woolworth's
that I got these records from probably made--the buyer made a mistake and
bought a couple jazz albums they didn't intend to, and he lucked out. And,
actually, they were mostly people like Andre Previn.

And then I heard Oscar Peterson, then I heard, oh, Brubeck live in Allentown.
And when I was in the audience, I remember listening and saying, `This is
really great, but there's more to do.' Now I was a kid, you know, and I'm
thinking, `There's just--he's not doing everything that you could do in this
situation,' you know. So I already knew something was--you know, that I was
going to contribute something, I guess.

And I heard Basie live a couple times. That was great. And I actually sat in
with Stan Kenton when he had that giant band. And then a lot of experiences I
had that probably I couldn't trade for any other kind of learning experience.

GROSS: You went to New York, scuffled there for a while...

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah.

GROSS: ...eventually started to get noticed. Then you started playing with
Charles Lloyd and, after that, went with Miles Davis. Apparently, he invited
you to join his band several times before you accepted. Why did you turn down
Miles Davis?

Mr. JARRETT: I said no to Miles because I had work for my trio, and I was in
the middle of setting up tours with the trio. And I remember telling him
that if there's a break in my schedule with my trio, that I would be happy to
play with his group and I would--I want to. But I'm not sure if he was--had
already gone electric. He probably had. And that was another thing that was
easy to say no to. It wasn't that attractive from that point of view.

If my memory serves me, when the trio came back from Europe, Miles had said,
`Well, whenever you feel like it, just come down and play. And, you know, it
doesn't matter, just come down wherever we're playing and sit in with the
band and play.' And so that's what eventually happened. I think it was

GROSS: You played electric piano with Miles' band.

Mr. JARRETT: Right. Yeah.

GROSS: Did you...

Mr. JARRETT: I wouldn't have played that electric piano with anybody else.

GROSS: Is that because he used it better or because you could put up with it
because you were playing with Miles Davis?

Mr. JARRETT: I heard that band--the previous band, before it went totally
electric--before it went more electric with Tony Williams and Wayne and
Herbie--Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock--and maybe Dave Holland, maybe Ron
Carter. I can't remember. But when I heard them play, Miles would play these
beautiful short solos, then he'd go to the bar. Then the rest of the band
would do their thing. And when I listened to everyone else in the band, it
sounded like they were trying so hard to be themselves.

And I thought, `You know, if I had to guess why Miles was leaving the stage
for so long, it might be something to do with what was happening when he
wasn't playing.' It was just a very vague feeling that I had that he actually
was waiting for somebody he could stay on stage for longer, playing and
listening. Everyone was playing like they were in a little box. Herbie was
in his little box. And they all sounded like they could be in soundproofed
booths; that they weren't really listening to each other that much. And I
think that was the day I thought, `Well, when I have free time and I'm not
doing my music with the trio, or whatever I might be doing, I want to play
with this man because he still sounds the best.'

GROSS: Keith Jarrett is my guest. You certainly pioneered the solo piano
concert, which eventually really caught on and spread to other instruments as
well. What was it like in the early days being alone out there on the stage
and improvising on your own?

Mr. JARRETT: It started out maybe as a result of recording "Facing You." I
can't remember. But it started out, I remember, at the Heidelberg Jazz
Festival(ph), where I was supposedly--I wasn't very well-known, I guess. And
I came out and did a solo thing. And it was tunes, but I started to connect
them somehow. Like, I'd have these transitional parts that connected
everything. And then that somehow just moved slowly into the expanded solo
concert, where there are no songs whatsoever and everything is improvised on
the spot.

I don't know. Someone once sent me a note from the audience that saying, `You
must be awfully alone. You must feel awfully alone,' or something like that.
And I realized, when I read that, that that was true. It is a terribly a
lonely thing to do. I mean, you're not even bringing material along for

GROSS: Right. Right.

Mr. JARRETT: So it was a sort of--I wish I could think of a word, but it was
sort of like having a seance with the audience. So it wasn't all that lonely
in the midst of it. But as a rule, the mechanism of doing it, traveling alone
and, you know, just going up there on an empty stage with a piano--I guess if
I thought about it, it would have scared the hell out of me. But I didn't
think much about it other than it was a challenge.

GROSS: In the '70s, I think a lot of your fans debated with each other
whether you were black or white.

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah. Well, you know, at the same Heidelberg festival, there
were some black musicians, or black audience members, trying to disrupt my
performance because they claimed it wasn't black music. And, of course, it
wasn't. One reason was that I wasn't black. But this was a jazz festival.
They were claiming not only was it not black music, but it wasn't jazz and it
shouldn't be at this festival. And this was, I guess, during the time when,
you know, the Black Muslim thing was pretty big.

And I went backstage afterwards, and I was rather heartbroken because I
thought, `Gee, these are fellow musicians or, like, people who like music, and
why are they doing this?' And I was just sitting alone in my dressing room
probably very upset, and a man and his daughter knocked on--a man knocked on
the door, blacker than any of the guys who were trying to disrupt the stuff on
stage, who was actually from central Africa. And he and his daughter came
back and said, `Mr. Jarrett, we just want to say that that was so beautiful.'
And I thought, `OK. Well, this is going to be just a political problem for
me. It isn't the music, it's just the politics.'

GROSS: Did you think that a lot of people assumed you were African-American
because your hair was really curly and looks like an Afro?

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah. And a friend of my ex-wife's was arguing with me and her
that I had to be black, no matter what I said. And once Ornette, backstage,
said something...

GROSS: This is Ornette Coleman?

Mr. JARRETT: Yeah, Ornette Coleman. One of the earliest times I was in the
same room with him, he said something like, `Man, you've got to be black. You
just have to be black.' I said, `I know. I know. I'm working on it.

GROSS: Well, do you think that that worked in your favor?

Mr. JARRETT: Well, it didn't hurt, you know. I don't think it hurt to
be--when I get that kind of feedback from the actual players, who I've felt
were partly my inspirations, who happened to be black, yeah. I mean, it's
great. It's a compliment.

GROSS: Before we let you go, I'm wondering, what are you planning for this
year? What kind of schedule are you committing to?

Mr. JARRETT: I just about completed my schedule for the year. I did some
concerts in Europe, and then there's about four more concerts and that's it.

GROSS: Well, Keith Jarrett, I'm really glad you're playing again and
recording again. And thank you so much for spending some time with us.

Mr. JARRETT: Well, thank you very much for the interest.

GROSS: Let's listen to a track from Keith Jarrett's new CD of standards
called "Whisper Not." The CD will be released next month. It features Gary
Peacock on bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums. This is "What Is This Thing Called

(Soundbite from "What Is This Thing Called Love?")

GROSS: Coming up, TV critic David Bianculli on last night's Emmy Awards.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Analysis: Last night's Emmy Award winners are a reflection of the
new voting system implemented this year

Last night, at the 52nd annual Emmy Awards, NBC's "The West Wing" beat out
HBO's "The Sopranos" in what was touted as a White House vs. the Mob showdown.
But our TV critic David Bianculli says there was a lot more going on last
night than just a two-show battle.

(Soundbite from "The 52nd Annual Emmy Awards")

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. HALLE BERRY (Presenter): The nominees for outstanding drama series

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BERRY: ..."E.R.," "Law & Order," "The Practice," "The Sopranos," "The
West Wing."

(Soundbite of audience applauding)

Ms. BERRY: And the Emmy goes to "The West Wing."

(Soundbite of audience cheering and applauding)


ABC billed last night's show as, quote, "The first Emmy Award of the new
millennium." That may be a year early, but there's no denying it was, for
television, the dawning of a new age, or at least the results of a new voting

Look at all the new blood that was honored last night. The first-year series
"The West Wing" won five awards, more than any other show, including best
drama. Another first-year show, the Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle," won
for writing and directing. Sela Ward won for her starring role in the
first-year drama "Once and Again." "Will & Grace," a second-year show in major
voting contention for the first time, won three awards, including best comedy.

Other first-time winners included James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos," Allison
Janney and Richard Schiff of "The West Wing" and Patricia Heaton of "Everybody
Loves Raymond."

Of the top six major awards, the only one that could be considered a
conservative, old guard choice was Michael J. Fox, who won for "Spin City."
And he was the right choice, as well as the sentimental one.

Usually, the Emmys are years behind the times, voting for shows and performers
out of habit, whether or not it was a good year for them. For example, Helen
Hunt won for four years running on "Mad About You," even though her final
season was a big disappointment. But this year both the nominees and the
winners seemed to indicate a sea change for the academy, a willingness, even
an eagerness to embrace the new as well as the old.

What changed? It's a good question, and it turns out there's a good answer.
What changed was the voting system. It used to be that all Academy members
could vote in the nominating round, but couldn't vote for finalists unless
they showed up to watch the shows in special judging panels. This meant most
of the active members, the ones making TV for a living, were too busy to vote
for the official nominees. So the retirees and the unemployed members cast
the final ballots, which explains a lot of the conservative, repetitive voting
patterns. This year was the first time all members could vote for the
finalists, so long as they watched cassettes of the nominated shows at home.
This not only widened the voting pool, it widened the perspective.

Does it matter that "The West Wing" gets noted instead of tenured series "Law
& Order"; that the young series "Will & Grace" steals the thunder from
"Frasier"? It sure does because it gives the networks and producers
presenting those shows more reasons to try something different. And in that
vein, the best news of all last night may be the three Emmys won by "The
Corner," the excellent HBO miniseries with an all-African-American cast.

In real life, excellence may be its own reward, but in Hollywood, nothing
beats an Emmy or two. And under this new system, with Emmys going to such
shows as "The Corner," "The West Wing," "Will & Grace," "The Sopranos,"
"Everybody Loves Raymond" and so on, the good guys really are finishing first.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for The New York Daily News.

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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