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Jean-Michel Pilc: Live at Iridium, New York

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French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc has composed some attractive music in his decade in New York, and he is a dynamic improviser as well. On Live at Iridium, New York, recorded in the fall of 2004, the latter quality is most prominent.

Live at Iridium is the first recording featuring Pilc's new trio with bassist Thomas Bramerie and the thundering drummer Mark Mondesir. The first half of the record is largely a showcase for a suite of Thelonious Monk pieces which are substantially deconstructed by Pilc. The essential, identifiable elements of "Jackie-ing and "Green Chimneys are present (along with a quote of "Straight, No Chaser ) and are joined together by a galumphing "Misterioso that finds its stride in nice, slow swing. Pilc's solos include relatively long periods of space interrupted by jagged, darting phrases. It's interesting music, but a little too much for the mind—not body or soul.

Pilc's thoughtful and passionate interpretation of Coltrane's "Spiritual, which builds to a ferocious climax, is a standout on the record. But the real highlight is the penultimate, nearly classical composition "Voices. An unaccompanied minor-key melody in the piano, resolving in major-key cadences, becomes a dialogue with Bramerie's bass and evolves into a full-on march when Mondesir's snare drum joins in.

Who knew that Jean-Michel Pilc, in addition to his considerable keyboard talents, was a virtuoso whistler as well? Those who turned out at Iridium in September learned this when, toward the end of the set, Pilc delivered a stunning solo, accompanying his lips with a knife and fork borrowed from a front-row dinner table. The set was largely a recapitulation of the record; fortunately the whistle solo led into "Landscape, an upbeat, danceable Caribbean-flavored tune that, live as well as on Live at Iridium, provided a warm, welcome coda to the evening's music.

Track Listing: No Print; Jackie-ing Part 1; Misterioso; Green Chimneys; Jackie-ing Part 2; Moonlight with M; Spiritual; Thief; Mr. RG; Yemen; Golden Key; Ignition; Voices; Landscape.

Personnel: Jean-Michel Pilc: piano; Thomas Bramerie: bass; Mark Mondesir: drums.

Title: Live at Iridium, New York | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Dreyfus Records

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