Transcribing Keith Jarrett’s “A Melody at Night, with You”

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Keith Jarrett

The 1999 recording The Melody at Night, with You is one of Keith Jarrett’s most popular records. Originally created as a gift to his wife, his versions of songs from the Great American Songbook plus the traditional “Shenandoah” are permeated by a special atmosphere that makes the recording one of his most personal audio documents. Jarrett dispenses with the jazz soloist’s conventional emphasis on dexterity, the “clever” phrase and the virtuosic sleight-of-hand, and instead strips these songs to their melodic essence to gently lay bare their emotional core.

After many years of preparation, the sheet music for The Melody at Night, with You has now been published by Schott Music with Jarrett’s approval and the support of Jarrett’s label, ECM.

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Taking on the challenge of transcribing the sheet music was piano teacher Friedrich Grossnick, who lives in a tranquil rural area in northern Germany. A passionate Jarrett fan, Grossnick has been following the work of the exceptional musician for many years. He has always been particularly fascinated by Jarrett’s solo recordings, and in his free hours Grossnick devotes himself with meticulousness and respect to a little-known art: professional transcription.

Writing down what you hear and finding notes for sounds that are more than just a tone requires more than theoretical knowledge and piano technique. “Music is an expression of the soul. You have to try to understand the artist and his soul,” explains Grossnick as he describes his methodology.

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Friedrich Grossnick

Himself a serious pianist, Grossnick raves about The Melody at Night, with You, “I was fascinated by the incredible sensitivity and the subtleties in harmony and voice leading.” Despite the album’s catchiness, Jarrett only appears to repeat himself. After a phrase is played once, it appears the next time in a different light, sometimes redesigned rhythmically, sometimes harmoniously or melodically.

At the same time, though, Jarrett’s playing is characterized by a pronounced polyphony and wide chord positions that create special challenges in converting the music into notes, even once the pitches have been transcribed. Grossnick clarifies, “With Jarrett, the hands usually interlock. But which hand plays which voice? The notes should be easy to read and playable.”

Grossnick has taken great care in assembling this edition, and the result is an outstanding score that achieves maximum playability within the greatest tonal range, while faithfully recreating Jarrett’s interpretation.