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The stream of imaginative energy flows strong and true on Jacky Terrasson’s new recording, simply entitled Smile. The dazzling jazz pianist performs with panache and exuberance, adding his unique touch to a diverse mixture of contemporary and classic standards. The music remains true to Terrasson’s form, as it is somewhat of a return to the trio format of his early acclaimed recordings. His previous release A Paris paid homage to his childhood experiences in France and with more than a half dozen recordings on Blue Note; he continues to develop and grow into a unique pianist.
Smile could easily be a case in point for music that expands on the conventional piano trio format. The trio features bassist Sean Smith and drummer Eric Harland on the bulk of the recording, with electric bassist Remi Vignolo on three tracks. The overall mood and tone is playful, unconventional, and free spirited. The recording begins with a trio work-out of “Parisian Thoroughfare,” with Terrasson weaving in and out of the melody with rapid and complex soloing. The next selection is a short but sweet rendition of Bill Lee’s “Mo Better Blues” from filmmaker Spike Lee’s movie of the same name, which is poignant and soulful. Terrasson includes subtle techniques on the title track, “Smile,” such as electric keyboards to enhance the music, but it’s his sheer inventiveness and musicianship that stamps his own signature throughout the recording.
The success of this recording also lies in the choice of exceptional sidemen. Eric Harland, who is quickly making a name for himself as a dynamic drummer, once again proves his merit by delivering superb skills that match the complexity and range of the selections. His playing on Stevie Wonder‘s “Isn’t She Lovely”, transforms the ballad into a groove infused performance. Sean Smith‘s acoustic bass is full bodied and robust; as his soloing skill takes the spotlight on the “The Dolphin.” Remi Vignolo’s electric bass work sounds appropriate when used, and contributes potency and depth to the moving composition “Sous Le Ciel De Paris.”
Many of these selections represent extensions from Terrasson’s recent live performances. Fortunately this spirit has spilled into the feel of the recording, with its strong sense of fun, spontaneity, and freshness. Willing listeners may find much to smile about here. Recommended.