40 Years Ago Today

Keyboard celebrates 40 years
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We continue our 40th birthday celebration by looking back at Contemporary Keyboard’s fifth issue (May/June 1976), which featured Keith Jarrett on the cover and included interviews with C&W pianist Ronnie Milsap, Kerry Minnear of Gentle Giant, jazz pianist Phineas Newborn, and Mormon Tabernacle organist Alexander Schreiner, as well as articles on big band pianists and the history of electronic keyboard music.

In his interview with Jarrett, author Len Lyons asked the pianist how he felt about the recent trend towards using multiple keyboards. “The ‘keyboard’ idea is one of the immense illusions in music at the moment,” wJarrett answered. “The keyboard is being used like a Parker Brothers game, a version of three-dimensional chess, which they can sell to people who can’t play two-dimensional chess. To simplify: People are making the problem of getting something out of themselves into an exterior problem of finding the right instruments to get it out with. It’s like saying the reason I can’t paint a masterpiece is because I don’t’ have the right paints.”

When asked how he distinguishes between improvisation and composition in his solo concerts, Jarrett replied, “Well, there’s no distinction between the two in the way I deal with it, although there are many differences in the two processes. You might call improvisation ‘spontaneous composition,’ which would connect the two. One the other hand, when you write something down, no matter how preconceived it is, it’s still spontaneous because you can always change your mind when the pencil is about the touch the paper. Even if you edit three hundred times, it’s still spontaneous each time.”