Jean-Michel Pilc

Live at Iridium, New York

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Although Jean-Michel Pilc has composed the majority of the pieces on Live at Iridium, New York, one gains an artist sense of the pianist by noting that he borrows one John Coltrane and four Thelonious Monk compositions. Pilc's joined by drummer Mark Mondesir and double bassist Thomas Bramerie for an adventurous set of post-bop that vacillates between a lovely delicacy to, on occasions, an aggressive abstractness. Pilc gently kicks off a piece like "Thief," stringing fragile lines into a beautiful melody before delving into a bouncy and, as it progresses, increasingly dissonant development. One gains an impression here and elsewhere that Pilc and company enjoy laying the base melody down and then deconstructing it, turning it inside out. On extended pieces like Coltrane's "Spiritual," the exploration develops at a slow, natural pace, allowing Pilc's three-and-a-half-minute opening to almost stand alone before Mondesir and Bramerie join him for uncharted territory. Live at Iridium, New York is an intense recording, and one knows, as he or she listens to each composition come to life, that these musicians are offering fresh, in the moment, interpretations of these originals and borrowed tunes. It's also refreshing that while Pilc and friends are capable of playing jazz that's intriguing and intellectual, they never forget to make it listenable.

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