by Jazz Fan on March 20, 2010
Last night I was one of nearly 3,000 dedicated music fans who filled Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, eagerly anticipating jazz artist Keith Jarrett's live solo piano performance. Like the other adoring Jarrett followers in attendance, I was delighted to hear that the performance was one of just three Jarrett would offer this year -- and, it would be recorded for a live album. Surely Jarrett would be in rare form on such a night!
Unfortunately, he was in rare form indeed -- but, I don't mean musically. The show had hardly started when Jarrett stood up, walked to the microphone and asked the audience to refrain from coughing during the performance. A few strained laughs from the audience and Jarrett returned to the piano. But not for long. Within minutes, he had resumed his position in front of the microphone, this time to make a more direct attack on those that dared mar his performance with a muffled cough. (Incidentally, the coughing at issue was really one or two muffled coughs. No uncontrolled coughing spells here!) He concluded snippily that he would simply have to play loud so that he couldn't hear the coughs and stomped off to resume his work before the piano. He pounded away furiously for a few seconds before stopping and changing his mind -- he would try yet again to play a ballad. Our tortured artist managed a few songs before storming off for intermission.
Amazingly, the first set was simply a warm-up for the second set with Jarrett quickly up in front of the microphone for an extended rant about the horrors of coughing. The audience -- who had paid handsomely to hear a jazz master play his instrument, not his angry tirades about coughing -- had by then had its fill. Someone shouted "Shut up and play!," which encouraged others with more earthy descriptions of Jarrett and his poor behavior to chime in. Within a few seconds, discontent had developed into a raucous and wide-spread rebellion with the audience shouting insults right back at the provocateur! Jarrett, a slight man, at first looked like he might be up for the fight, but instead walked back to the piano. "What, then, should I play?" he asked sarcastically. Many requests came from the audience including, "Free Bird!"
Amazingly (and thankfully), Jarrett and the audience had the start of a reconciliation. Jarrett bore down and wrenched a little more out of each tune as the second set concluded. Nonetheless, perhaps a fifth of the audience, still disgusted, left at the instant the second set concluded. When Jarrett returned for one of what was to be many encores, a fan yelled out, "We've gotten rid of the riff-faff!" Another, "We love you!" Jarrett seemed to agree and played gorgeous and inspired encores in a cough-free concert hall.
Was it worth the wait -- and the need to endure several delays and the angry tantrums of a spoiled prima donna? Is any artist so unique and such a treasure that their talent makes up for bratty antics and mistreatment of their audience?
It's up to you: How rude is that?
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Rudeness Quote of the Moment
"Never insult anyone by accident."