The Michel Petrucciani Trio
One Night In Karlsruhe [Live]
The French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani lived his life in pain. He was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bone disorder. He was one of the greats of jazz piano across the 1980s and early 1990s – despite being in enormous pain whenever he played. I remember when I first heard him, I was floored. Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson had all been absorbed by him – and in some ways his own playing was a blur of all three. Stunning stuff.
When I first found out about the pain he lived with – how his short arms ached with or without playing, and then the pressure on his body to perform the way he did – well it’s heartbreaking; gives extra cause and pause to marvel at the music.
As a small combo leader – and sometimes solo at the piano – he released a couple of dozen albums. There’s plenty of great music to choose from and find but this live gig is a previously unreleased gem from 1988. It features Petrucciani in dazzling form with the very best rhythm section he ever used, legends Gary Peacock on bass (a regular of Keith Jarrett’s groups) and drummer Roy Haynes (as I write this he’s a day off celebrating his 95th birthday).
The SWR Jazzhaus label has a goldmine of unreleased recordings – gigs recorded for TV and radio – that are now being slipped out in the world; heaven for jazz fans.
This is a stunner.
Right out of the gate Petrucciani’s piano is galloping on There Will Never Be Another You. He sets a near frantic pace on many of these tunes (Giant Steps) including one of the faster versions of My Funny Valentine you’ll ever hear.
Haynes of course is a master of the brushes (Embraceable You) and will hit down hard with the sticks when required (She Did It Again); relishing every moment of his round-the-kit showcase solo on One For Us.
Peacock plays these wonderful, stirring lines (La champagne) and is often the captain of the ship (In A Sentimental Mood) and the three had worked together around this time on the studio album, Michel Plays Petrucciani (an easy pick as one of the must-haves from the catalogue) so it’s easy to hear the familiarity and feel the interplay of this trio.
There are some moments of pure ecstasy from Petrucciani on here (Mr K.J.) where he’s playing dizzying runs that are pure bebop. I think of Bud Powell’s lyricism, Art Tatum’s chops, Monk’s inventiveness.
It’s easy to form a picture of Petrucciani playing out of his skin, transcending the limitations of his body.
He’s been gone for over 20 years and very little in the way of official posthumous releases have been added to his canon, which is all the more reason to value this. And if this has caught your interest and serves as your introduction to his musical world then that’s more than fine. You’re about to be very well served indeed.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron