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Since winning the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition 17 years ago, Jacky Terrasson has ranged far and wide from his original, striking early trio (with minimalist drummer/percussionist Leon Parker), exploring formats from solo and various duos to larger ensembles. For this, his first album for a new label, he returns with a new trio, featuring recent Monk Competition-winning bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams, augmented by guests.
While Terrasson has been likened to Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock, more apt comparisons can be found in such pianist/leaders as Ahmad Jamal, Randy Weston and Abdullah Ibrahim. He has the pellucid touch and ringing gravity of tonesharp and percussivethat are hallmarks of those pianists. And when he takes his band into funkier groove territory, as on the bouncy, folkish "Gaux Girl" or the R&B-flavored "Say Yeah," complete with his understated vocals and added guitar and percussion (Matthew Stevens and Cyro Baptista, respectively), there's evidence of a Ramsey Lewis populism too.
But this album doesn't hew to a narrow aesthetic; Terrasson's distinctive approach embraces diversity while maintaining a personal sound. His mash-up of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and the standard "Body and Soul"fragments of it assert themselves half way through and in the codaemploys tropes from Jamal's ensemble arsenal, including abrupt tempo shifts, whiplash dynamics and unexpected turnarounds. And the band, whether just the trio or augmented, maintains a spare, delineated sense of space-time with clean, neo-classical modernist lines. It's crisp and airy, never muddy or dense, even in the helter-skelter racing of "Beat Bop" with judiciously added electronic synth. Although originals dominate, the understated, wistful version of Monk's "Ruby My Dear," with Gregoire Maret's haunting harmonica and Terrasson's piano tag-teaming the melody, deeply honors tradition, as do a respectful "'Round Midnight" and exuberant "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To."
Track Listing: Gaux Girl; Beat It/Body and Soul; Ruby My Dear; Beat Bop; 'Round Midnight; Morning; My Church; Say Yeah; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To; Carry Me Away; O Café, O Soliel.