Hymns Spheres, released complete for the first time as a double CD set, recorded in Bavaria on an eighteenth century Karl Joseph Riepp organ at Ottobeuren Abbey in 1976, is in this complete version bookended by a ‘Hymn of Remembrance’ right at the beginning, and a ‘Hymn of Release’ at the end of the second disc, with the nine-movement ‘Spheres’ forming the rest. The only version on CD (as opposed to the harder-to-find vinyl) that does exist lopped off five of the Spheres movements and the pair of Hymns.
Jarrett for the recording experimented with the Trinity organ’s stops to reach notes beyond the tempered scale, and in so doing contributed to part of the album’s unusual nature. Occasionally the music sounds ultra modern, a soundtrack to a vast galaxy of limitless space Jarrett’s vision and the remarkable instrument he plays created in tandem. Yet the contours of the improvisation allow the music to dive back into the baroque especially on the hymns, which will be a revelation to those only familiar with the existing CD where they don’t appear. The hymns are less experimental, it’s true to say, or at least have a more familiar back story, the catharsis after the dancing on the edge that the Jarrett faithful will be familiar with at his solo piano concerts, which he sometimes achieves by playing a gospel-influenced song.
As intense in its own different way as the early piano odyssey Facing You, and the much later masterpiece Testament, this audacious album which Jarrett followed up in 1980 by returning to Ottobeuren and further developing his approach to appear as Invocations/The Moth and the Flame, has an otherworldliness that I guess will appeal to the magpies of electronica, the passage of time and austere Benedictine acoustics no barrier at all. Jarrett has achieved a music on Hymns Spheres that surrounds itself in the ineffability of the past to reflect on the equal mystery of the present.
Released on 14 January