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Live At the Village Vanguard

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Album Review

When you speak of piano virtuosos like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, Martial Solal also has to be included in the conversation. Every concert is a happening and each recording an event, and at age 80 he shows no signs of slowing down. The evidence is irrefutable as displayed on this solo piano offering, recorded live at New York City's Village Vanguard, where an overflow house witnessed the mastery of Solal in all his glory. His limitless ideas in changing the nature of a jazz standard with every bar and phrase is nothing less than showstoppping, making you wonder just when he'll exhaust his treasure trove of extrapolated concepts, long after you would think it impossible for any human being to go further after mere minutes of listening. Yet time and time again Solal reinvents melody, pushes the envelope far beyond convention, gives you little hints of tunefulness just to tease, and lets you know he is always cognizant of form or style, and is in complete command. After stating to his audience that "I have to be good," Solal completely reworks the well-worn standard "On Green Dolphin Street" with an abstracted intro, an arpeggiated melody, and deft key changes as he steams up and down the ivories in spiral-staircase fashion, eventually loping, then romping. "Lover Man" is treated in a scattershot and ruminating then tangential fashion, interpreting the melody in free time. He takes the first half of the vocal phrase on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" in three- and four-chord extrapolations with off-minor stride and a fascinating, playful reharmonization. This is genius at work. "'Round Midnight" is modified in time changes, furious flurries of notes or hints of melody to assure you he knows this song cold, but chooses to play it differently. A fast dismissal of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" is shorter, more focused, and humorously taken by the patrons, while a frenetic "The Last Time I Saw Paris" and a quick start to the otherwise mature "Corcovado" are still pushed outside the box. In the middle are two of Solal's originals; "Centre de Gravité" is much darker and even sinister as a wicked stalker film noir pursuance is contemplated, while "Ramage" in its bouncy yet off-color stance contrasts a noncommittal waltz that stretches time, and asks more questions than it answers. A truly brilliant conceptualist and completely inventive performer who takes no prisoners and allows all of his risk-taking to succeed, Solal is at the top of the mountain artistically, and deserves all the high praise any human musician should aspire to and achieve. If there were a trillion stars to give for his music, he deserves every one of them. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: 23 August 1927 in Algiers, Algeria

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

French pianist, composer, and bandleader Martial Solal's intuitive approach to improvisation has earned him an honored place among the greatest minds in all of jazz. Thoroughly versed in the tradition from big-band swing to bop and post-bop, Solal has also composed chamber music, written scores for more than 20 films, and recorded more than 50 albums as soloist and leader. For more than half a century, Solal personified the cross-pollinated splendor of European jazz by utilizing styles and influences...
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Live At the Village Vanguard, Martial Solal
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