KEITH TIPPETT – The Unlonely Raindancer (reissue)


This morning I was listening to a promo kindly sent by an obscure improvising guitarist (who will obviously remain unnamed and geographically unplaced). The music was honest enough, but its consequences on this listener were risible, when not plain annoying; it was like watching the bad Polaroid of a given place instead of standing on site to smell the scents and hear the wind blowing. The sounds were at once nice, slightly ugly, and totally useless; the creativity seemed plastified, not trickling from a spring.

Subsequently, I played this new version of The Unlonely Raindancer after several years from the last session with my treasured vinyl copy. The near-perfection of my miniature planetary system came back to order in a matter of seconds.

See, the difference between true creative forces and struggling-to-be-noticed wannabes.

Discus (read: Martin Archer) may just have released the most important reissue of the decade. I should not write about it, for this is one of the milestones in both Keith Tippett’s career and the history of solo piano at large; plus, the album’s origin is narrated in the liner notes and on the web, so we won’t repeat it here. But the urge to invite anyone who is not yet acquainted with this remarkable music is too strong. The naive youngsters; the forgetful collectors; the know-it-alls who call another Keith the world’s greatest pianist (and no, it’s not Emerson).

The ones in need of relieving a brain from the noise of someone else’s words.

Random thoughts, made more touching – as I am typing – by the ongoing cascades of arpeggios in the wonderful “Thank You God For My Wife And Children”, which for some reason I tend to associate to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. We’re at that level of expressive intensity and sheer internal vibration. Maybe even a superior level; this piece could easily move a sensitive individual to tears.

When Tippett loses himself into Sound, he calls everybody in. The perception of his technical mastery is almost forgotten, the stunning strength of the mass of harmonics elicited by his instrument in total command of the space. It’s not really comparable to other jazz-rooted pianists; rather, the feeling is similar to what’s normally experienced when Charlemagne Palestine attacks a Bösendorfer to induce a healing harmonic trance.

We are lucky to have people who preserve jewels like this for the posterity; and luckier for having lived in the same period of such an artist. When this writer/fan had the chance of thanking him following a concert in Rome, the emotion was so deep that I simply forgot to introduce myself (including Julie, who hadn’t performed but was there). Hopefully – before forgetting me a minute later – they understood my embarrassed rudeness.

Being still in awe of this recording today is a veritable consolation. Not everything has gone wrong in this time-wasting earthly existence, after all.

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