Michel Petrucciani: So What: The Best of Michel Petrucciani (2004)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Bill Evans wrote in the liner notes for his Grammy Award-winning album Alone
that "to understand music most profoundly one only has to be listening well." If you listen to an Evans album and follow it with So What
, you will understand well that Evans' music lived in the small but profound hands of Michel Petrucciani.
So What is a recorded odyssey of Petrucciani's work on Dreyfus Jazz; a compilation that shows a well-seasoned jazz pianist playing beautifully in the style of his influences like Evans, Ellington, Debussy, and Ravel. Throughout the album, Petrucciani's playing is so spirited and disciplined, like his piano predecessors, that a first-time listener would never know that he was afflicted with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as glass bone disease. The disease ultimately led to Petrucciani's death in 1999 when he was only 36, but it didn't stop him from becoming an accomplished musician who had a joie de vivre, as his French countrymen would say.
So What opens up with a Gershwin standard, "Summertime," featuring a duet with a long-time companion of Petrucciani, French jazz organist extraordonaire Eddy Louiss. Petrucciani solos on "Summertime" with a light swing, but he cascades across the keyboard very strongly with Tin Pan Alley stride. Louiss plays the warm, mellow tone of the organ in a stop-and-start bebop style while Petrucciani comps aggressively. "Summertime" and "Les Grelots" (also featuring a duet with Louiss) were originally taken from a three-night show at the Paris club Petit Journal Montparnasse.
"Home" and "So What," extracted from Petrucciani's Trio In Toyko, feature popular session drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Anthony Jackson. The trio's rendition of "So What" is energetic, even without front line horns. Petrucciani states the famous modal chorus and then breaks into a heavily classical influenced solo that sounds more like the Romantic pianist Debussy than Evans' original solo on Davis's "So What."
The rest of So What features live Petrucciani originals in Germany; a duet with Petrucciani's father, Tony, on guitar; and an all-star quartet featuring fellow French violinist Stephane Grappelli, bebop legend/drummer Roy Haynes, and bassist George Mraz. So What is an outstanding overview of the diverse, but well-grounded musical palette and channeled technique from which Petrucciani created vivid jazz piano improvisations.
Track Listing: Summertime, Little Peace In C For U, Home, J'Aurais Tellement Voulu, Chloe Meets Gershwin, Brazilian Like, So What, Les Grelots, Looking Up, Besame Mucho, Why, Michel's Blues, Pennies From Heaven
Personnel: Michel Petrucciani,piano;Eddy Louiss,organ;Geoge Mraz,Anthony Jackson,bass;Roy Haynes,Steve Gadd,drums;Stephane Grappelli,violin;Tony Petrucciani,guitar;Bob Brookmeyer,trombone;Flavio Boltro,trumpet;Stefano Di Battista,saxophone; Graffiti String Quartet
Record Label: Dreyfus Records