Solo Live

COMPOSERS: Ellington/Strayhorn
LABELS: Disques Dreyfus
ALBUM TITLE: Michel Petrucciani
PERFORMER: Michel Petrucciani (p)
CATALOGUE NO: FDM 36597

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It’s probably fair to say that nobody expected Michel Petrucciani to continue playing into old age. But until he died suddenly at the age of 36 this January, his condition (brittle bone disease) had done nothing to diminish his playing. Barely three feet tall, he had the physical reach of a small child but the firepower of a jazz giant.

A quick-thinking two-handed player, the Frenchman drove his up-tempo numbers (especially Ellingtonia) hard, fast and close to the edge. Ballads brimmed with feeling but never cloyed. Every tune he set in motion swung, relentlessly. Concerts especially were roller-coaster affairs, so it’s fitting that his last recording should be a live show, recorded at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt in 1997.

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Never a subtle pianist, he tosses off this mix of favourite standards and originals with characteristically breathtaking abandon. The variations on the Ellington/Strayhorn classics ‘Caravan’ and ‘Take the “A” Train’ which close the set have the rhythmic, kinetic energy of a TGV headed for the artist’s home town of Montpelier. A moving (in all senses) testament to a big-hearted musician. Garry Booth