Martial Solal / Martial Solal Trio

Balade du 10 Mars

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Solal remains one of the most inventive, brilliant, and woefully underappreciated pianists in modern jazz. This CD should serve further notice as to his genius in completely reshaping and reinventing standards with the poetic fervor of a restless soul. Bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Paul Motian contribute mightily to Solal's raised temperature and metamorphosed rhythmic and harmonic notions, values he alone should be allowed to define. The proof is in the listening. Six of the nine pieces are standards, and if thought you'd never hear a fresh take of "Round 'Bout Midnight," here it is. Intentionally convoluted, more angular than Monk, Solal, completely off the cuff, molds this well-wrought melody in a 20th-century modernism that defies any standard nomenclature. It simply is its own perfectly pure interpretation. A reharmonized "Night & Day" uses slashing chords to intro a scattered, quirky swing, again a la Monk with a twist of lemon. "The Lady Is a Tramp" is treated like Swiss cheese; small holes of melody are gouged out while Johnson's bass hits on all eight. There's an off minor reset of "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," a relatively standard-by-comparison take of "Almost Like Being in Love," with all loose ends tidied during "My Old Flame" with some Oriental flourishes. The originals include Motian's free-jazz-based "Gang of Five," suggesting "Out of This World" in a distant galaxy. Motian swings and gets into a dark groove at the end. The remainder are penned by Solal, the title track a spacy ballad with arco bass complement, "The Newest Old Waltz" for solo piano, quietly rendered and peacefully thought-provoking. Because Solal's recorded output is smallish compared to Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner or Kenny Barron, that does not mean he can't rank in the upper echelon of great modern jazz pianists in the here and now. It makes each release that much more of an event, and this one is highly recommended.

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