One would have a difficult time finding a musical composition that better suits the emotions of a recently divorced dad than Keith Jarrett’s
Bordeaux Concert (Live) “Part III.” If I happened upon a divorced dad—driving around looking for coffee in his 2018 Ford F150 or something—I would stop him and play it for him. The entirety of the piece is 4:04. I cannot think of a reason why a recently divorced dad couldn’t find that kind of time. Once the divorced dad and I had an understanding, we would venture into the composition. It begins with stable, rolling chords that gently root the piece—drawing up imagery of a young couple holding hands in tall grass. They’re one entity—a zygote of a relationship. Full of dreams. Perhaps one of them is hoping for marriage and children with the other, but that person still can’t see what it’s like to be late for work, and their toddler won’t get dressed. And, more importantly, how helpful their partner would be in that situation. Because how sexy or playful your date looks in tall grass does not come into play six years later when you haven’t been allowed to take your morning poop.

Nevertheless, the beginning is stable and pretty. But, also, a little off balance maybe? Let’s call that foreshadowing. There’s beauty in instability. Remind yourself of that when your finances are spread across multiple conference room tables. Especially in jazz. Without instability, we cannot have resolution (toddlers remind us of this too). Anyway, it rolls through these chords for the better part of the first minute. Keith Jarrett loves to find grooves. Let him guide you through the beginnings of your marriage. Near the end of the first minute, you begin to hear him improvising arpeggios between chords and pumping the pedals (as he does). And breathing. There’s a hard-working rhythm there—like humping at the end of an impossibly long day. Next, Mr. Jarrett guides you through the beginnings of your family. It’s okay to tear up a bit here. Tanner takes his first steps, Rosie uses a fork. Billings the dog gets loose, and you all pack up the Forester to go find him. Whatever. It’s messy, it’s expensive, and you’ve completely fallen out of shape; it’s a beautifully jazzy, improvised, life.

There! That grunt right there at the 1:40 mark—that’s where Tanner hit you in the face when potty training. He said he had to poop. You knew he had to poop, but he wouldn’t sit on the potty. You pulled his pants down, and you could see the poop coming out of his butt, so you did what you thought was the only reasonable thing and tried to put him, screaming, onto the potty. Instead, you ended up with avocado in your eye and poop on your shoes. And a cold spouse for the rest of the evening because you made Tanner scared of the potty. It’s incredible how this piece really captures it all. I saw an episode of Mr. Rogers once where he painted a canvas with different colors based on how a particular piece of classical music made him feel. I would paint this section brown.

Moving on in Mr. Jarrett’s masterful Bordeaux Concert (Live) “Part III,” we come to the 2:40 mark—where there’s a definite shift. It’s like Mr. Jarrett forgets that the left pedal of a piano is, in fact, the soft pedal—he stomps it like the clutch of a Cadillac and sends us sailing into blues harbor. Thump, your hair is all over the shower tiles again. Thump, I lost the promotion to Gary last Christmas. Thump, because he works later than I do. Thump, I don’t really blame you, but you could be more supportive of my career. These measures are wrecked with survivability. Keep the ship afloat at all costs! We cry for stability, only to find that strong improvisation would have saved us. The notes from Mr. Jarrett’s fingers fly about the keyboard—tickling the black keys ever so much more often. They make a gospel-y sound, which reminds us to throw our hands in the air and ask for strength. And, finally, forgiveness.

There’s a beautiful release around the 3:12 mark. Where Bordeaux Concert (Live) “Part III” turns to full-on gospel. And then there’s a honky tonk-y shuffle roll (Elton John probably likes this part). If you listen closely, divorced dad, you can hear yourself playfully reembracing your past life here. Maybe you’re getting back into fly fishing, or tennis. Or maybe you bid on an Alpha Romeo at an auto auction? I don’t know. But Keith Jarrett is conveying to you here that it’s all okay—you’re going to be okay. You shouldn’t have given up those things in the first place, but it’s cool they’re still out there for you.

This brings us to the final chord. I don’t know whether it’s meant to be the end of life altogether or just the end of your “divorced life,” but it has a finality unparalleled in improvisational music. It’s done with, softly. Like a velvet mushroom cloud. Perhaps it’s closure, maybe you’ve met someone else. Maybe you’ve gotten a good dog. The point is that these four minutes and four seconds have been all about you—you can come back here any time that you need. Now, go pick up your kids. And don’t forget karate classes at seven and gymnastics in the morning.