Michel Petrucciani left his mark on straight-ahead jazz. This compilation from previous albums demonstrates clearly that the pianist was in command when he explored the realm, both as a gentle balladeer and as a swinging musician who worked hard at his craft and connected well with a great number of like-minded artists in the jazz community.
The albums represented on this compilation were recorded between 1992 and ’98. It was in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, January 6, 1999 that Petrucciani died in a New York hospital while being treated for a lung infection. A child prodigy who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or glass bone disease, he played on specially equipped pianos that had custom-built pedal extensions. He was usually carried to and from the piano bench because his bones were so fragile.
The pianist considered his small size and delicate condition as the early secret of his musical success. The limitations meant that he wasn’t out on the soccer field with the other boys. Instead, he was in the house studying: first classical music, and then jazz.
So What features Petrucciani in various formats with capable partners. His father, Tony, plays blues guitar, as he and Michel duet on Tony’s composition “Michel’s Blues.” Their natural empathy makes the piece shine brightly. With organist Eddy Louiss, the pianist swings heartily through several numbers. With violinist Stephane Grappelli, bassist George Mraz and drummer Roy Haynes, he swings through several classic tunes. As solo piano interpreter, he carves several pieces in his own sweet way. His romantic sense of harmony and his deep appreciation for keeping lyrical melody at the forefront become quite clear on the pianist’s offering of “Besame Mucho.” This highly recommended anthology of Petrucciani’s work honors his memory appropriately.