François Couturier

Un Jour Si Blanc

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The title of François Couturier's album, Un Jour Si Blanc, comes from a poem by Soviet filmmaker Andreï Tarkovsky, an artist with whom the pianist is fascinated and whose work was the inspiration for his entire 2006 album, Nostalghia: Song for Tarkovsky. The French pianist has devoted most of his career to jazz, but he obviously knows the classical repertoire well because in previous albums he has made musical references to composers as diverse as Pergolesi, Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Schnittke. That broad frame of reference gives his music an uncommon expressive scope, and the selections on this album offer an impressive stylistic and emotional range. It's possible to hear the influence of Messiaen in L'aube, Ligeti in the crystalline chromatic sections of the title track, and sultry hints of Piazzolla in Voyage d'hiver, but there is no sense of appropriation because the voice is always Couturier's own. His dazzlingly crisp technique gives him the freedom to explore and create pianistic figures that would be out of the reach of all but the most virtuosic players. In the more meditative pieces, he plays with a mesmerizing, unhurried serenity and flexibility; it almost feels like it's possible to hear him listening. Couturier can be heard quietly vocalizing in the more intense passages, but it's no distraction. The album should appeal to fans of both jazz and new classical music with a taste for the adventurous. ECM's sound is characteristically clean, clear, and immediate.

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