Canadian pianist/composer/visual artist Michael Snow records sparsely. Therefore, the importance of the three-CD set Snow Solo Piano Solo Snow (3 Phases), released in early 2000 on the Quebec-based label Ohm Éditions, must not be underestimated. After 50 years of solo playing, Snow finally gets the box set he deserves, a comprehensive collection of pieces spanning all the scope of his piano art. "Piano Antique," the first CD, gathers solos recorded between 1948 and 1994. They all illustrate the blues and jazz roots of the pianist. Three pieces were recorded on 78 rpm by an amateur in 1948-1949 and show Snow's apprenticeship. The three remaining tracks (1987-1994) demonstrate how he has integrated his roots to his experimental techniques. Here, the magnum opus is "Around Blues," a 45-minute piece where he quotes his old masters. "Piano Biologique," disc two, is made of later solos (1994-1998). The music is freed from any rule; the artist becomes part of the instrument. The beautiful "Temperatures" particularly illustrates the sensibility and shades of Snow's playing. "Piano Mécanique," the last CD, was the starting point of the project. Ohm Éditions wanted to offer the musician a chance to work with a Disklavier, a modern-age mechanical piano linked to a computer interface, allowing the player to short-circuit his old habits and conceive a new approach to the instrument. Jocelyn Robert and John Oswald collaborate to some of the tracks by manipulating through the computer the sounds produced by Snow. Some experimentations turn out very good, like "Bird Mécanique Arabian Entendu!," which uses a bebop head repeated in all registers by the computer, or "Entre parenthèses," a superb solo where the pianist turns a malfunction of the machine into his own advantage. Snow will remain an essential character in the history of 20th century Canadian experimental art. This box set, accompanied by a 72-page booklet, is strongly recommended to anyone interested in his work.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture