Ah, Michel; you left us too soon

d74342523961Here’s another in my occasional series of ramblings about musicians I’ve been enraptured by at different times. Pianists seem quite well represented. Rather than  style, technique, influences, comparisons and so on – all obvious things to write about I suppose – its the joyful exuberance of Michel Petrucciani’s playing that stays with me more than anything. He was capable of very tender, romantic playing and some of his compositions border on the sentimental, but it was never long before an irrepressible joyfulness burst through. So it was, in Autumn 1996,that I plucked at the hem of this particluar robe, the only time I ever saw him play live. It was a solo gig at the Royal Festival Hall. I had been smitten for  while. When I first got into Jazz I used to go to the local record library and borrow (and tape .. sshhh) any thing that was there that took my fancy. It it was there that I picked up a copy of his album ‘Music’ and I was off. The solo gig in London I approached with some trepidation; weirdly (given its my instrument) I don’t always like solo piano. Michel, though sounded like a whole band on his own. There’s a solo album available which was recorded on that tour . The first track is ‘Looking up’, a tune I loved when I heard it on that album Music and I can picture now Michel playing it at that gig. This is not intended to be a bit of hagiography. He probably doesn’t stand out as a huge innovater. You can hear the blend of Bill Evans’ harmonic mastery and prodigious technique that is there in Keith Jarrett but with a firmer touch – he really belts the piano sometimes. And there were some intriguing musical choices, not all of which really get my vote ( duo with Stefan Grappelli, duo with Hammond organ player Eddie Louis), and yet when I heard of his death in January 1999, it seemed a bit of light had left the world (and now who’s being sentimental?!) Have a look at this from the Umbria Jazz Festival, a few months before tht Festival Hall gig


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