Stroke sidelines piano icon Keith Jarrett

Groundbreaking jazz and classical performer has lost use of left hand

A photo taken on July 18, 2003 shows Keith Jarrett performing in Juan-les-Pins, France during the Jazz à Juan Festival. (AFP File Photo)

One of the world’s most celebrated jazz and classical pianists, Keith Jarrett, has revealed that he probably won’t perform publicly again after a series of strokes.

The 75-year-old — whose Koln Concert album from 1975 is among the best-selling piano records ever — told The New York Times that two strokes in 2018 temporarily paralysed him.

“My left side is still partially paralysed,” he told the newspaper. “I’m able to try to walk with a cane, but it took a long time for that — took a year or more.”

Today the pianist can only play with one hand.

“When I hear two-handed piano music, it’s very frustrating, in a physical way,” Jarrett said.

“If I even hear Schubert, or something played softly, that’s enough for me. Because I know that I couldn’t do that. And I’m not expected to recover that. The most I’m expected to recover in my left hand is possibly the ability to hold a cup in it.”

The announcement shocked the music world, which for decades has counted Jarrett among its most illustrious and groundbreaking artists in jazz and classical performance and composition.

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Jarrett was a prodigy, beginning piano lessons before his third birthday.

In 1964 he moved to New York where he played with the drummer Art Blakey, later jamming with legends including Miles Davis.

It is not the first time he has confronted serious health conditions: in the late 1990s Jarrett struggled with chronic fatigue syndrome.

But he continued to release a string of albums and play for audiences the world round.

Jarrett said his prospects of returning to the stage appear bleak.

“I don’t know what my future is supposed to be,” he added. “I don’t feel right now like I’m a pianist. That’s all I can say about that.”