Martial Solal


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Pianist Martial Solal is an overlooked and underrated musician who deserves wider recognition. Nothing could underscore this more than the stellar live recording Solal made at the Village Vanguard a few weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Apparently, the pianist had a rough time getting to New York and without much preparation chose to deal primarily with standards, as if to return to some safe and familiar territory both musically and emotionally. "What Is This Thing Called Love" takes on a deeply metaphorical tone through Solal's poignant and minor-sounding intro, and his Art Tatum meets McCoy Tyner version of "Body and Soul" is breathtaking. Backed by the capable and sensitive hands of drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Fran├žois Moutin, Solal strips melodies to their core statement -- including on his original compositions -- only to extrapolate them to their outermost reaches in his solos. He plays in quick burst of harmonic fury, purposefully dropping notes every few bars. Stylistically, he couldn't have chosen better sparring partners than Stewart and Moutin, who constantly accent Solal's every rhythmic idea. They often sound like three soloists playing at once, as on the original "Suspect Rhythm." One might assume this could lead to chaos, but each member of the trio always seems to be listening deeply to what the others are playing. This is highly creative and cerebral jazz that also succeeds in reaching your soul.

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