As readers should know by now, I have deep admiration for pianist Christian Jacob, whose praises I have sung whenever the opportunity arose. He is, simply put, one of the finest jazz pianists on the scene, and those who've not heard him play have missed a thoroughly pleasurable experience. On Contradictions, Jacob salutes another marvelous pianist, Michel Petrucciani, whose life was ended far too soon by the effects of osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare bone disease that stunted his physical growth but couldn't arrest his artistic genius.
Perhaps because Petrucciani's brilliance at the keyboard was so conspicuous, his remarkable talents as a writer have been somewhat overlooked, an omission that fellow countryman Jacob has sought to redress by selecting and arranging eleven of Petrucciani's superlative compositions and lending each one his own special interpretation. There's no need to go into great detail about them; suffice to say that these songs are invariably spellbinding, and that a number of them, if heard more often, could easily become jazz standards.
Jacob plays them with consummate ardor, subtlety and awareness, all the while superbly accompanied by bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker, with whom he has worked for more than a decade and who together comprise "the Tierney Sutton Quartet minus one. The overall feeling is one of remarkable compatibility and responsiveness; these three musicians listen closely to one another and use that as a framework on which to create and enhance their beguiling themes.
It seems strange to be writing about an album dedicated by Jacob to a great artist who is no longer with us, as the leader, his family and friends are even now mourning the loss of another incomparable musician, his father-in-law, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who died on August 23 at age 78. While that may not seem untimely, to anyone who was close to Maynard and experienced his incredible energy and enthusiasm, it was absolutely shocking.
But if this album affirms anything it is that one's life should be celebrated, not mourned. There's not a trace of sorrow here, only gladness and admiration for the wondrous talent that personified Michel Petrucciani. And that is as it should be. An affectionate tribute to a phenomenal musician whose life, although shortened by infirmity, was by its very nature a cause for praise and honor.
Personnel: Christian Jacob: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Ray Brinker: drums.