The Keith Jarret Syndrome: A case for recording studio editing

Okay, so here I am listening to a live recording of Keith Jarret swinging and–most regrettably singing–to the lovely strains of “Autumn Leaves.”

Sure, Jarret’s a brilliant musician and the CD is fine but, damn, like the classical pianist Stephen Gould, the genius simply can’t be stopped from humming, growling, and basically sounding like an irritating mosquito as he’s tickling those 88 ivories. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind an occasional “whoop!” of celebration, but Jarret sometimes sounds demented and the more I try to ignore his vocal tics, the more they glare.

When he finally dies, is there any hope that an equally brilliant studio engineer might be able to erase all his irritating noise? Basically my question is this: Can this NOISE be deleted so seamlessly that the rest of the music doesn’t suffer, or is some “collateral damage” inevitable in the exchange?

Also this: what other famed musicians had this regrettable tendency of yammering while they were playing?

The great Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson tends to hum, though it’s not noticeable enough to interfere with the performance.

Others: Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, Bud Powell.

David Helfgott (made famous by the film Shine) also comes to mind, but he is mentally ill.

Stephen Jay Gould was a paleontologist and famous author. Glenn Gould was a brilliant classical pianist.

I can understand that the humming might be irritating to some people, but I very much doubt anyone in the near future will remove it from the recordings.

There is a technical issue, of course. Classical and jazz music fans are often very finnicky about the sound quality, and we’re not anywhere close to having an algorithm that might remove the humming, and just the humming - without affecting the piano’s harmonics.

There’s also an aesthetic issue. Jarret and Gould were very aware that their humming is in the recording. They made the decision to leave it there, it is now part of their interpretation of the piece. Remove it and it’s not Jarret or Gould anymore. Think of it like colourising old b&w movies. Kind of.

Gould simply COULDN’T stop humming along with his recordings - I recall an interview with him and he said that he had tried to control it, but it was just too much a part of him as a muscian. As has been pointed out, it is part of the performance and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

Congratulations, jovan! Your $50 check is already in the mail. :wink:

I knew it wasn’t Stephen, but I was too lazy to Google. Naturally I blame YOU for not informing me of my mistake before I hit the submit button, you thoughtless SOB!

I think Gould is a brilliant pianist, but IMHO his vocal tics (aka “singing”) really distract from his recordings. I’ve read similar views expressed, among them in a Washington Post review of a Gould CD released a few years ago.

I suppose some can forgive his singing, but it strikes me as arrogant and undisciplined. In the realm of orchestral music, there are few things worse than $10 million piano talent accompanied by a 25-cent voice.

Gentle, don’t get me started on Bud Powell. At least he was playing jazz…

First, let me restate that I totally understand people who find Gould’s humming grating and hate him for doing it. For others, like me, though, it’s not just that we don’t mind, it’s that we actually find the singing interesting. Just think about it, he’s playing a 5-voice fugue, and he’s adding another. It’s hard to make out what he’s singing, but it’s surely not what he’s playing.

There are heaps and heaps of flawless recordings, carefully edited so that there is nary a error in the performance, carefully micked so that you don’t hear anything but the piano’s strings. But, you know, that’s boring. I want to feel that something real is happening beyond those speakers. I want to hear Gould and Jarret hum, or Claudio Arrau breathe deeply, or chairs crack, or pedals hit the felt cushion, etc. It makes for beautifully imperfect artworks. A rarity these days.

Well, it certainly makes me feel better about my growling and humming when I play.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to the piano, as some may know—drummers very often growl, hum, moan, etc. when they play, as do upright bassists. My guess is that it’s more prominent among those who play instruments where at least three limbs are involved.

Also, count me in as someone who enjoys hearing the pedals hit the felt—Steely Dan’s “Home At Last” features this phenomenon in the beginning. It’s almost like a rhythm accompaniment.

Keith Moon apparently got so mashed during/after one recording (See for miles, I think) that he had no memory of being there - he became convinced the others had got in a session drum-worrier.
They only calmed him down by playing his drum track back to him so he could hear himself screaming during the tricky bits.

I adore the sound. :slight_smile: I could do just that at the piano. All the time. lol.

Sorry, I’m with the OP. I can’t listen to nearly as much Keith as I’d like, because his vocalizations ruin the music for me.

It’s NOT that he’s singing along, or scatting what he’s playing. That’s completely different. Keith is emoting. He’s moaning and groaning with the effort of playing and/or composing on the fly. He’s “woo-hoo”-ing in self-congratulation when he plays something particularly great. He’s just generally having an orgasm onstage when the music reaches a certain level. It has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with his personality. It’s grandstanding, and it sucks, and it’s too bad that such a great, great pianist suffers from it.

Hear, hear! :wink:

Don’t even think of messing with Bud Powell. The man was a genius, and I like his moaning, er, singing, er whatever it was. It is a part of listening to Bud Powell. The thought of removing it is, well, unthinkable.