What happened at Köln?

In 1975, Keith Jarrett was booked for a solo piano improvisation concert recording in the Opera House of Cologne. It was a highly anticipated show with a sold-out crowd.

The problem was the tech crew had set up the wrong piano. Not only that, the piano they had on stage didn’t have pedals that worked properly, it was too small for the venue size, the upper registers were too tinny and thin and the bass register was too weak.

Jarrett, frustrated, almost refused to go on stage that night. For whatever reason he said Yes. In that moment, despite working in less than ideal conditions, he went out and performed, adjusting his play to the tool he had.

The Producer, Manfred Eicher, later said, “Probably played it the way he did because it was not a good piano. Because he could not fall in love with the sound of it, he found another way to get the most out of it.”

The Köln Concert would later become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album.

Did the album become a success because of the conditions he played in? Did it give it the unique sound we want to hear? Would it have been better if he had the piano that was originally planned?

I’m not sure.

I do know that if he refused to play that night, it would have never happened.

You’ll never know what happens next unless you say yes.