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“if you don’t get a new piano, Keith can’t play”

keith jarrettJanuary 1975. The Cologne Opera House where Keith Jarrett was about to perform for 1400 people—without rehearsing and without sheet music—had provided the wrong piano.

This one had this harsh, tinny upper register, because all the felt had worn away. The black notes were sticking, the white notes were out of tune, the pedals didn’t work and the piano itself was just too small. It wouldn’t create the volume that would fill a large space such as the Cologne Opera House. 

Jarrett left the building.

The concert promoter was a 17-year-old named Vera Brandes. It was her first concert. She went outside into the rain and found Jarrett sitting in his car. Somehow she persuaded him to come back inside and play the unplayable piano.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Köln Concert is the best-selling piano album in history and the best-selling solo jazz album in history.

There is no audio file of that concert available to link to. But you can listen on You Tube to the entire Bremen Concert, which was recorded the following month and is equally sublime.

Disruptions help us solve problems; they help us become more creative. But we don’t feel that they’re helping us. We feel that they’re getting in the way … and so we resist. But all of us, from time to time, need to sit down and try and play the unplayable piano. 

Our comfort zones are not the best environments for creativity and innovation.


Note: Italicized portions are quotes from a TEDGlobal London talk by Tim Harford on how frustration can make us more creative.

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