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Jacky Terrasson: Push

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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There are three qualities about pianist Jacky Terrasson's music that make it irresistible and riveting. The first is that it dances interminably. Secondly, it is jagged and angular—an epithet often used to describe the music of Thelonious Monk and which suits Terrasson well as, even with his singularly distinctive voice, he is genealogically connected. Finally, Terrasson has a penchant for a playful, almost puckish, interpretation, where humor is implicit. As such he negotiates all melodies, even those that are contemplative, with sparkling and almost child-like candor. Above all, of course, Terrasson plays piano with devastatingly beautiful expression, sublime technique and incomparable virtuosity.

Push, then, is absolutely classic Terrasson. It is full of double entendre, unbridled ideation and luminosity. Like Monk, his muse, Terrasson's solos are abstruse. This is because his purported approach is never linear, but is instead curved—and if he can get away with it, inside out. He attacks melodies askance, sometimes taking cues for his solo excursions from the third or fourth line in a verse. He is decidedly phonetic in his choice of notes, when expressing melodic invention in a kind of "E Flat's Ah Flat too" sort of way. Thus, he sometimes makes the most unlikely sequence of notes fit mellifluously. His soloing seems to come from deep within his lean guts, careening through his lean body and gaunt shoulders, and flung as if waved on by a magical wand onto the keyboard, where his fingers settle their scores with the keys.

On Push, Terrasson saves some of his most inventive work for the Monk songs—"Ruby My Dear," which is played with abject tenderness, as if pleading Monk's case for an old sweetheart, and "'Round Midnight," a magical crepuscular sketch, which gads about, ultimately losing its mind with lonely splendor. His harmonic treatment of "Beat It" and "Body and Soul," tagged together here, turns the fleetingly familiar phrases of the melodies into an ad libitum essay that ultimately enriches the music as it veers way off course before eventually returning to the original melodies, almost as a codicil. "My Church" and "Say Yeah" contain some refreshingly beautiful "preaching of the Gospel" amid dazzling improvised parts, the latter with vocals and the rhythmic inflections of Brazilian percussionist, Cyro Baptista—one of several guest appearances.

Terrasson's treatment of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" is wonderfully irreverent—full of crushed notes and mashed chords. "Carry Me Away" is elegiac and luminous, and features some wonderful percussion from Baptista, and guitar from Matthew Stevens. Also memorable is the work of the extraordinarily talented harmonicist Gregoire Maret, who whose solo on "Ruby My Dear" echoes the song's implicit heartbreak, and that of tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart on "Morning." But in the guts of the music is bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams, who underscore its utter beauty throughout the album.

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.

Personnel: Jacky Terrasson: piano, keyboards, vocals; Ben Williams: bass; Jamire Williams: drums; Gregoire Maret: harmonica (3, 8); Jacques Schwarz-Bart: tenor saxophone (6); Matthew Stevens: guitar (8); Cyro Baptista: percussion (8, 10, 11).

Title: Push | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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