Perseverance

When Keith Jarrett Played on a Very Broken Piano...and Then Sold 3.5 Million Albums?

Talk about dealing with adversity
When Keith Jarrett Played on a Very Broken Piano...and Then Sold 3.5 Million Albums?
Image credit: Hiroyuki Ito | Getty Images
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President of The Marks Group
3 min read
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Did you know that one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time was played on a very broken piano? It was made by Keith Jarrett and it's called the Köln Concert album.

Jarrett has had a long and successful career as a jazz pianist and composer. Even in January 1975 the then 29-year-old artist had already achieved world-wide popularity, having played mostly in quartets with some of the world's greatest jazz musicians. Around that time Jarrett embarked on a solo piano career. He treated audiences to great music and regular doses of his improvisation, jumping around and wild keyboard activity.

Related: 7 Traits That Will Help You Overcome Adversity

His fans loved him for all this pageantry, especially in Germany where he was hired to play in the first-ever jazz performance given at the Cologne Opera House. However, only hours before the performance, the panicked organizers discovered a big problem: The piano provided for the jazz great was broken.

How broken? The baby grand was too small for the venue. Some of the keys didn't work. The pedals stuck. It was out of tune. Yeah, that broken. So what does Jarrett do? Tired and dealing with back pain, he almost bails. But after some hemming and hawing he decides to play it, and for over an hour in front of a late-night audience of 1,400 he puts on a show for the ages.

Jarrett avoids the bad keys and focuses on the good ones. He pounds out riffs on the lower, bass keys to make up for the instrument's smaller size. He innovates, he moans, he sweats and he jumps up and down. And the result? Well, you can listen for yourself. Check out Jarrett's Köln Concert album and you'll soon understand how it sold 3.5 million copies and went on to become not only the best-selling solo album in jazz history but one of, if not the, best-selling solo piano albums of all time.

In short, Jarrett made good music from a bad instrument. He faced diversity…and he dealt with it. He did it not just to serve his own ego. He did it because he had a responsibility. He was not going to let down the concert's organizers, the employees at the concert hall, his team of people, his fans, his audience. Many of these people rely on him for their livelihoods. Most just rely on him to play music that gives them pleasure and makes their lives that much better to live. Fourteen hundred people bought tickets to listen to him, and he wasn’t going to disappoint them.

Related: Adversity Only Makes These Immigrant Entrepreneurs More Determined

Business owners face diversity like this all the time. The great ones deal with it. It's not about them. It's about the people that depend on them for what they do.

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