On February 13, 1995, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan opened its doors for the first time to a jazz musician with an evening of "Improvvizazioni al pianoforte" by Keith Jarrett. For the Italian press this was a major, perhaps even an historic, event...
Il Messaggero's critic was confident that an album would emerge from the proceedings: "Keith Jarrett records all his concerts, the very best of which become records - as was the case with The Köln Concert, Paris Concert, Vienna Concert.... The La Scala concert must surely merit such documentation, for the pianist was in tremendous form. This was Jarrett at his most convincing, his touch by turns concise, secure, carressing, the famous harmonies present in abundance, his control of colours and sounds absolute. The rolling, flowing, extended piano improvisations by nowembody a genre of their own, in which Jarrett can make music to touch every heart."
La Repubblica: "It was more than the expected triumph. Keith Jarrett's performance was an explosion of contagious music-making with never a hint of doubt or reserve... And when the music was over the celebration continued in all the meeting places that surround the city centre: the event had captured the imagination of the public in a way that even the opening of the season at La Scala had not done. Unquestionably, with the "alien" Jarrett, a visitor from another culture, La Scala had scored a success such as it had not seen for quite some time...First and foremost because Jarrett is a pioneer of a "planetary music" without borders or taboos. As a total improvisor he has no equals in the boldness of his transcultural imagination. His idiosyncratic piano improvisations are as aleatoric and unpredictable as they are mysterious...An evening which has already become history: Keith Jarrett at La Scala!"
L'Unitá: "A triumphant achievement!"
L'Espresso: "A superb jazz pianist conquers the establishment."
La Stampa: "...exquisite passages and virtuosity destined to stun the public...the room exploded in ovations...a self-evident triumph."
Arena: "The central part of the second improvised suite set off deep shiverings, palpable throughout the hall, in response to passages of almost unbearable beauty. We were witnesses to an astounding outpouring of invention, as miraculously luxuriant asMonet, Debussy, Nature herself, vibrant and fantastical."
L'Informazione: "An extroardinaryevening in the true sense of the word. Before an immensely appreciative, heterogeneous public, Keith Jarrett realized a dream, triumphing at the prestigious Milanese theatre with half an hour of applause and five encores."
Il Tempo: "Keith Jarrett bewitches La Scala!"
La Nazione: "Genius - pure and simple. Keith Jarrett, with his piano improvisations gave life and creative vigour to an evening which will remain vivid in the minds of those fortunateenough to be present. Jarrett has, literally, conquered La Scala - the numerous, heartfelt encores left no doubts."
Although Jarrett has been as prolific as ever through the 1990s, ECM's documentation of his work has focussed in this decade primarily on his interpretations of jazz standards, on the one hand, and baroque and classical music, on the other. La Scala is his first recording in the highly-popular "solo concert" format since the Vienna Concert was issued five years ago.