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Ever since Clark Terry quizzically discovered him in his native France and ever since Charles Lloyd generously ended his hermetic retreat to tour with him, Michel Petrucciani has captured the affection and admiration of musicians and listeners alike. In spite of his unavoidable physical limitations and the pain of his "glass bones disease," he created improvisational art and inspired everyone he met. Requiring leg extensions to operate the pedals, Petrucciani made up for that limitation with a very percussive approach to the piano. When one looks at the photographs of Petrucciani, it becomes apparent that his hands were unaffected by the genetic defect, thus allowing him somehow to summon the strength to always attack the piano with fierceness and grace.
Now that Petrucciani is gone after 36 years, Dreyfus has re-released the recordings of three of Petrucciani's concerts: a solo concert at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1993, a duo concert at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse in 1994, and a trio concert in Nabari, Japan, in 1994. This packaging of three of Petrucciani's concerts in fairly close chronological order allows a comparison of his style as he engages an audience with his solo presence, or as he interacts seamlessly with fellow musicians on stage.
Starting the listening experience with Petrucciani's solo concert lets the listener understand how he develops his tunes with an underlying percussive feel, even without rhythm back-up, as well as his harmonic depth. Yet, the appealing complexity of his music becomes even more apparent as Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen joins in, not for support, but as an equal in developing the music. The bassist's solos throughout the Duo album, or his sympathetic unison lines with Petrucciani to the tune of "Oleo," or the ease of sliding from one number to another bespeaks a mutual understanding of the music.
With the rhythmic support of his brother, Louis, and drummer Lenny White during the Japanese concert, the fullness of Petrucciani's approach reaches it culmination as the rhythm section frees him to develop alternative rhythms and interactive communication.
Michel Petrucciani obviously is deeply missed. This Dreyfus three-CD set provides further documentation of his artistic talent and his extroverted music that reached thousands. And always will.
Track Listing: Disk 1: Autumn Leaves; In A Sentimental Mood; Take The A Train; Besame Mucho; Hidden Joy; Caravan; 'Round Midnight
Disk 2: All The Things You Are; I Can't Get Started; Oleo; All Blues; Beautiful Love; Someday My Prince Will Come; Billie's Bounce; Blues In The Closet; My Funny Valentine
Disk 3: Manhattan; Charlie Brown; On Green Dolphin Street; Les Grelots; All The Things You Are; Why?; Tutu; Dumb Breaks
Personnel: Michel Petrucciani, piano; Niels Henning
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.