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If you had to write a headline for the career of Jacky Terrasson it might be "from brash to brilliant." The forty-something pianist took the jazz world by storm, winning the Thelonious Monk piano competition in 1993 only to make some impetuous records that wowed you with his talent. But they didn't register high with their significance.
But like his contemporary Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Terrasson has matured into a more expressive player whose music maintains its staying power. builds on the success of the 2003 disc Smile, a trio record that relied more on fecundity than technique.
On Mirror the pianist spaces five original tracks alongside reconfigured jazz standards and a very pensive and pondering version of "America The Beautiful. A perfect representation of the entire effort, "America seeps into your ears first as a children's song, then gains a boldness with a rush of fleshiness, only to reinvent itself with a bit of jazz swing. The power Terrasson holds is the ability to present this songand all othersin anyway he desires: as protest music, a patriotic anthem or the blues.
He also picks a favorite vehicle that Thelonious Monk utilized for improvisation, "Just A Gigolo. With a definite nod to Monk, he plays with a jagged stride piano stabbing sound, pausing here and there just to remind you that he knows his Harlem history.
His original, "Tragic Mulatto Blues, takes into account his French/African-American heritage. Clearly playing his left hand against his right, the deep blues mesh with a more church-y song line. His reserved and simple beauty a track like "Everything Happens To Me is fitted nicely against the storm he blows in on "Cherokee. The Ray Noble touchstone is deconstructed as he avoids the theme for most of the song, only touching on it to verify your ears.
Two tracks best highlight the talents of Terrasson, the classic Ellington vehicle Caravan and Carole King's "You've Got A Friend. On the latter, he takes what could be a "smooth hit" pop track and breathes credibility with his very sympathetic ringing notes, not unlike Keith Jarrett. But unlike Jarrett, he reinvents "Caravan as a one-man band, ringing the piano, knocking on its wooden insides like a human beatbox and twinkling the keys. All quite a beautiful run.
Track Listing: Caravan, Juvenile; Just a Gigolo; You
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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