During a tour of Europe last summer, a number of American-based jazz musicians of Jacky Terrasson's generation settled in a small remote town in France to record an album. The studio had been converted from a winery. The camaraderie of the musicians developed from the fact that the closest town was 20 miles away. The result of the collaboration is Á Paris, Terrasson's tribute to the music he heard while he was growing up in the City Of Light.
After a stunning and influential recording debut on Blue Note in 1994, Terrasson has proceeded to thrill audiences with his percussive and seemingly conflicted style on the piano. Combines force with sudden quietude, rumbling percussion with rubato ruminative stretches, melodic sweetness with angular improvisation, perambulating relaxation with unpredicted acceleration, Terrasson teases with anticipation and surprise.
Such is not the case on Á Paris.
Instead of surprise, Terrasson honors the melodic form of French songs popularized by singers like Edith Piaf, Barbara, Jacques Brel or Charles Trenet. Such a deference includes containing the songs within the three- or four-minute length of the typical recordings he heard on the record player in his home. One of the songs spanning the longest track length is Terrasson's first recorded composition, "I Love You More."
In contrast, Terrasson's interprets chanteuse Barbara's song, "Nantes," as a music-boxed, childhood song of only two minutes that slowly envelopes the listener and then abruptly ends.
Terrasson's now-classic arrangement of "I Love Paris" has evolved on Á Paris into a funkier version with a strong bass line from Ugonna Okegwo. Yet, after starting on the piano, Terrasson performs the slowed middle section on Fender Rhodesan instrument gaining more of his recording attention lately, especially on his last album, What It Is.
Terrasson has assembled a diverse group of musicians for his project, including his original trio of Okegwo and Leon Parker on three tunes. However, the bulk of the recording is done by French bassist Remi Vignolo and Stefon Harris' drummer, Terreon Gully. Since Harris was performing in Europe at the same time, he was able to appear on Á Paris' final track, Métro, a medium-tempo, minute-and-a-half imitation of the sound of the Parisian subway as it careens through the tunnels beneath the city. In fact, Terrasson is scheduled to appear on Harris' next CD.
The salient ingredient of Á Paris, though, is the singability of the music. Terrasson's trio calms down the chauvinistic French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," into a waltz that could be sung soothingly without bombast or force. Terrasson's (as well as Little Jimmy Scott's) harmonica player, Gregoire Marat, adds a sense of melodrama to Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" ("If You Go Away"). Interestingly, Terrasson opposes the urgency of the harmonica with blues-influenced modulations and exploding bombs of unanticipated strikes before calming into a straightforward melodic exposition on the piano.
French guitarist Bireli Lagréne joins Terrasson on three tracks, most notably leading the development of the title tune, "Á Paris." Performing a gorgeous ballad unfolding over Terrasson's half-note changes before the two of them glide into a middle-section blues. They delicately trade phrases in gypsy-like references of flatted fifths and flatted seconds in a minor scale. Terrasson and Lagréne have fun with "Que Reste - T'il de Nos Amous?" ("I Wish You Love"), as Lagréne assumes the rhythm guitar part behind Terrasson's light-hearted improvisation on Fender Rhodes.
The first two tunes on the album convey the variability of Terrasson's styles. He adds a spiritual element to Edith Piaf's "Plaisir d'amour," somewhat akin to the hand-clappable "Oh Happy Day." And yet on Francis Poulenc's "Les Chemins de L'amour," Terrasson substitutes horizontal flow over bar lines for startling percussiveness to reveal the melodic potential of the song.
Unlike any other Jacky Terrasson album to date, Á Paris reportedly inspired him to continue presenting the beauty of French music to audiences beyond France's borders. Another album of French songs is planned.
Track Listing: Plaisir d'amour, Les Chemins de L'amour, Jeux Interdits,
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.