Jean-Michel Pilc: True Story (2010)
There are few pianists in any realm of music as expressive, and with such extraordinary touch and dynamics, as Jean-Michel Pilc. He is also so enormously inventive that he might be perhaps one of very, very few pianists to inhabit the same rarefied atmosphere as Bill Evans. And that is only half the story. To Pilc, the piano is not another instrument; it is an extension of the human voice. It whispers sensuously and provocatively, babbling on with excited chatter like a child that has recently discovered human speech. It entices, cajoles, even using hypnotic tones and terms of endearment to attract. Most of all, it sings as if soaring on the wings of invisible and unutterable arias, and swings like a syncopated pendulumcausing even the trusted metronome to go mad with delight at the music that flows into its keys, through Pilc's heart, mind and fingertips.
This is the magical spell that Pilc casts with True Story, his ethereally beautiful trio record with bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Billy Hart. Notes dally and hang like air heavy with dew. Phrases beguile and entrap the senses like nearly invisible gossamer, spun from Pilc's fingertips, resplendent with the shimmer of dream-scapes wrought in song. Pilc does not dazzle with speed. Rather, he relies on the delicacy of melodic invention and harmonic surprise to attract and possess. His thoughts are clear as crystal, flowing energetically as a brook fortified by an April shower. Sometimes the notes stand upright as they traipse and gambol lyrically; at other times they may slant and rush backward, as if he has decided to turn his thoughts and phrases inside out. In this respect, Pilc most resembles the great pianist, Walter Norris, who so elevated his art as to reside in that celestial place where only a few make up the presiding deities of 21st Century music.
Music like "The Other Night" and "A Brief History of Time," despite the latter's abstract nature, are like sonic arrows aimed straight at the center of the heart. "Relic," "PBH Factor" and "High SkyThe Elegant Universe" are deeply provocative and stir a gut full of emotions that trigger cerebral gyrations only after they have drained the soul of emotion. The epic narrative of "True Story" unravels like a serpentine, Dickensian story full of foreboding, until things are brought to a resolution (around the end of Scene 4), and ultimate happiness, but not before Pilc has told his story with all the deft twists and turns of an ingeniously woven narrative, only this one sings ever so elegantly.
The coup d'état, of course, is the inclusion of Kozlov and Hart. In trio settings there is always the temptation to "hear" Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian in almost everything that came after the great Bill Evans Trio. But Pilc's trio is truly an artistic equal to that immortal trio.
Track Listing: The Other Night; Relic; PBH Factor; A Brief History of Time; High Sky--The Elegant Universe; Mornings with Franz; Kingston NY; Try to Remember; B.B.B.; My Heart Belongs to Daddy; True Story--Scene 1; True Story--Scene 2; True Story--Scene 3; True Story--Scene 4; True Story--Scene 5.
Personnel: Jean-Michel Pilc: piano; Billy Hart: drums; Boris Kozlov: bass.