In a tenure with the vaunted Blue Note label that has produced ten full-length CDs in a variety of settings and production styles, Jacky Terrasson has never recorded a solo piano album. After a hiatus of sorts, the pianist/composer /bandleader has completed that project, though not without some self-admitted soul- searching, creative and otherwise. The wait, however, was worth it.
Mirror is a thing of beauty. Terrasson has proven himself a courageously proficient jazz musician on his previous recordings, but this new project is a step above what he's done before. Many solo piano albums tend to be either too stark or too directionless, but Terrasson's is purposeful and deep with passion. There's a sense of spontaneity that comes and goes within his playing that contrasts beautifully with a more formal approach, the combination reaffirming the preparation and thought that went into the concept before he ever entered the studio to execute it with engineer Joe Ferla.
Terrasson's rendition of "You've Got a Friend, for example, is emblematic of the invention in play on Mirror. Terrasson relegates the all-too-familiar melody line to the background, while he explores darker harmonic motifs, ultimately rendering a nouveau standard fresh and vital. Bringing a hint of the blues to "America The Beautiful is a stroke of near-genius as well.
Terrasson includes a handful of original pieces on the CD. The title song is too arresting not to stop and listen to intently, its rolling rhythm the aural equivalent of epiphany, while the concluding "Go Round is reflective and tranquil, containing just enough of a sense of finality to make you want to start the CD over.
On his own material as well as the covers, a palpable physical sensation permeates the pianist's playing, a virtue that provides a distinct element of continuity from Terrasson's previous recordings. Duke Ellington's "Caravan opens the disc, and it's a reflection of how ambitious Terrasson is that "Just A Gigolo also appears here: Thelonious Monk (Terrasson won the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition in 1993) also covered that tune in a solo setting.
Intimations of personal conflict surface on Terrasson's "Tragic Mulatto Blues, while hints of the inner child emerge, too, as the pianist teases "Somewhere Over the Rainbow at the beginning and end of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend. Over the course of Mirror, the artist navigates from spur-of-the-moment vibrancy to restful repose, touching the nuances of emotion in between with a command that belies his years but ultimately renders his performance all the more credible.
Mirror is so perfectly rendered that it deserves to find a spot on "Top Albums of 2007 lists far and wide.
Jacky Terrasson: piano.