In a galaxy of jazz stars, some members shine a little brighter than others do, even if they're not as recognizable. Pianist and composer Jean-Michel Pilc and his trio will be hard pressed not to go unnoticed here in the States with his latest stellar recording Welcome Home. Born in Paris in 1960 and a resident of New York City since the late 90's, Jean-Michel is renowned abroad as a musical virtuoso. Some of his many credits have been with artists such as Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Dave Liebman, and Harry Belafonte. In 2000 he received France's prestigious Django Reinhardt Prize from the French Academy of Jazz, an honor bestowed upon the "best French jazz musician of the year." His immense talent and sheer genius on piano are evident on his first worldwide recording.
Pilc's power trio must have been designed among the heavens as well. It consists of drummer Ari Hoenig from Philadelphia, and bassist Francois Moutin from Paris. Their playing exemplifies the symbiotic relationship between music, musicians, and creativity. Every selection on Welcome Home showcases unique individual talents but reveals the incredible dynamics of true musical camaraderie. Pilc's creativity is a force to be reckoned with, and the new recording expresses his musical depth and vision. Pilc penned four selections. Each one gives a glimpse into his musical psyche. The title composition "Welcome Home" is a haunting melody that is mesmerizing and dark. Not the kind of welcome one might expect. The trio's talent is exhilarating. A prime of example of the trio's power and flair is witnessed on the quirky selection "Serial Mother Blues", with it's upbeat and complicated rhythms and turns. Pilc's solo is unleashed in a swirl of notes and chords. Ari's percussive energy expands and retracts as the heartbeat of Moutin's powerful bass holds it all together.
Pilc's genius is also expressed in his love and handling of great compositions from Miles, Monk, Ellington, Coltrane, and even a surreal and unique version of Simon and Garfunkle's "Scarbough Fair". Miles' cool modal masterpiece "So What" is realized in stark contrast from the original. Monk's unique "Rhythm-A-Ning" is playful, and yet intense, as all musicians trade breath-taking solos. On Duke Ellington's timeless "Solitude" the masterpiece is redone with tenderness as Pilc displays a delicate touch, while Ari's brushwork is impeccable. Moutin's bass solo reaches a lyrical and heartfelt climax. Coltrane's totally cool "Cousin Mary" is a musical workout for the trio while "Giant Steps" is performed at mid-tempo in a playful and sincere manner. The music is challenging, exhilarating and spellbinding, yet always entertaining. Each selection on this recording will undoubtedly be analyzed but should be approached with the sheer pleasure of experiencing a unique work of art. A definite pick for best of 2002.