During the 90s, I used to see Keith Jarrett quite often as he used to dine at an Italian restaurant across from Carnegie Hall called Trattoria Dell’Arte that I used to manage along with my colleagues Sandra Scandiber, Debra Moore, and Russell Raiteri.
At the time, Jarrett was at the peak of his career. With a non-stop worldwide concert schedule and dozens of highly acclaimed albums to his credit—including the perennial favorite, The Köln Concert—Jarrett had become one of the most sought-after concert pianists in the world—equally at home as a soloist as he was with his mainstay trio featuring bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Anyone who has ever had the great fortune of catching him live in concert can attest that a Keith Jarrett performance was almost like a religious experience—at least, that’s how I experienced it. So, every time Jarrett performed at Carnegie, he was sure to be spotted at Dell’Arte before his show, eating to his heart’s content. (Incidentally, he was also a frequent diner at their sister restaurant, Fiorello’s, naturally, because it was located across from Lincoln Center—another venue he often performed in.)
I once asked him why he ate so much before a performance, and he simply said he loved to have a good meal before playing. He also said that his favorite city where he enjoyed playing most was Tokyo because their audiences were silent and respectful, unlike us Americans. These and many other pointed questions I’d ask Keith each time I saw him. He was quite approachable, especially when he had a big plate of pasta before him. Over the years, I got to know him much better and even organized his 50th birthday, which he celebrated with his family on a non-concert night.
On another day, during one summer, while he was dining outdoors with his then-wife Margot, he asked me if I would hire his son, Gabriel, as a server. I asked Keith if his son had any experience. He told me he once worked as a server at a summer retreat somewhere in New Jersey—hardly the experience we were looking for at this bustling eatery. Still, with great hesitation, I hired Gabe anyway because it was Keith Jarrett’s son, for Christ’s sake.
Later that evening, Margot phoned me at the restaurant from their home and told me that if her son couldn’t handle the job or “pass muster,” as she put it, that I shouldn’t be cowered because Keith asked me to hire their son. She wanted to make sure he hadn’t pressured me. I reassured her it was fine, and that I was happy to do it.
Anyhow, once Gabe started working at the restaurant (I had stuck him downstairs as a busboy in the catering department), I saw a lot more of Keith, which turned out to be a good thing. He’d shower me with tickets to his concerts anytime he’d play Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center. Life was good. But as suddenly as he had come, Keith disappeared after Gabe quit without notice. I was sort of relieved that his son quit of his own volition. But I never did quite see Keith up that close again, save for some concerts I later attended from afar.
Former restauranteur, musician, concert promoter, producer, publisher, manager, and impresario, Charles Carlini has synthesized these roles to become a dynamic force in the music industry–noted for his ability to bring diverse talent together to create innovative concerts and recordings that reach and move music-lovers everywhere.