Preliminaries to the concert were not auspicious. Jarrett arrived at the opera house late and hungry, and needed to eat a hasty meal before going on stage. Then 17-year-old Vera Brandes introduced herself to the music world as Germany’s youngest concert promoter with Keith Jarrett's "The Köln Concert" on January 24, 1975 as the headlining event. Jarrett had originally selected a Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand, but the stagehands accidentally placed a Bösendorfer baby grand onstage which was designated for rehearsals only. The piano was in poor condition and took 5 hours of tuning.  But Jarrett's performance was enthusiastically received, and the subsequent recording was acclaimed by the critics and an enormous commercial success. With sales of more than 3.5 million, it became the best-selling solo album in jazz history.
The recording is in three parts, lasting 26 minutes, 34 minutes and 7 minutes, respectively. As the concert was originally programmed on LP, the second part was split into parts labeled "IIa" and "IIb". Part IIc actually is a 3rd part, the encore.
A notable aspect of this concert is Jarrett's ability to produce very extensive improvised material over a vamp of one or two chords for prolonged periods of time. For instance, in Part I, he spends almost 12 minutes vamping over the chords Am7 (A minor 7) to G major, sometimes in a slow, rubato feel, and other times in a bluesy, gospel rock feel. And for about the last 6 minutes of Part I, he vamps over an A major theme. Roughly the first 8 minutes of Part II A is a vamp over a D major groove with a repeated bass vamp in the left hand, and in Part II B, Jarrett improvises over an F# minor vamp for approximately the first 6 minutes.
Since the release of The Köln Concert, Jarrett has been asked by pianists, students, musicologists and others, to publish the music. At first, he resisted such requests since, as he said, the music played was improvised "on a certain night and should go as quickly as it comes."  However, this improvisation already existed in recording, and the transcription only represents the music, so he finally came around to publish an authorized edition, but recommended that every pianist who intended to play the concert should use the recording itself as having the final word. A transcription has also been published by Manuel Barrueco for classical guitar.
1. "Part I" – 26:15
2. "Part II a" – 15:00
3. "Part II b" – 19:19
4. "Part II c" – 6:59
All compositions by Keith Jarrett