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Jacky Terrasson - Mirror Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 2008
ImageIt seems as if the French have always loved jazz, at least ever since Josephine Baker caused a sensation in the mid-1920s with her act at the Folies Bergere. Considered a haven from racism in the 1930s, France welcomed many American jazz musicians, treating them as artists, including Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, all of whom spent periods in Europe. The remarkable Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt often played in France with French violinist Stephane Grappelli, and even under the very dangerous conditions of the Nazi occupation, some French jazz musicians were able to keep on recording and performing.

After World War II, France acted as a home for pianist Bud Powell, tenor-saxophonist Don Byas and many other expatriate American musicians. At the same time, France started producing major jazz artists itself. Chief among those were the still-active Martial Solal, a pianist who had the ability to turn standards inside out, casting fresh light on the songs from surprising angles.

Jacky Terrasson, who was early on thought of as a Bud Powell disciple, is actually a natural extension of Solal. On Mirror, he performs six standards and five originals, each full of surprises. “Caravan” is shorn of its Mideastern flavor, and part of the time Terrasson treats the piano as a drum, literally hitting it to achieve rhythms during the whimsical version. “Just A Gigolo” clearly owes this interpretation to Thelonious Monk, with its ragged, slightly out-of-tempo striding, but also has some of Terrasson’s chord voicings and wit. His version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” is respectful, even somewhat reverent towards the famous melody. “America the Beautiful” is given an out-of-tempo and brittle treatment that hints at what America should be, while making the statement in a subtle way that it is currently somewhat broken. “Cherokee” is taken at a rip-roaring tempo, a conventional but no less exciting treatment, while “Everything Happens to Me” is played quite tenderly and with heartfelt emotion.
Of Terrasson’s originals, “Juvenile” goes through some mood changes before resolving into a charming waltz. “Little Red Ribbon” shows off his impressive classical technique, while hinting at Keith Jarrett. “Tragic Mulatto Blues” is a funky blues that could have been much longer than its three minute playing time. Although clearly coming from a much later era, “Mirror” is worthy of Art Tatum, with some stunning passages from Terrasson’s left hand before his right regains control. Finally, “Go Round” is an eccentric yet oddly haunting waltz before the program closes with an unlisted single chorus of "Happy Birthday."

Jacky Terrasson, who tours the United States on an occasional basis, is even more dynamic live, having performed two solo sets recently at the Monterey Jazz Festival. He is one of the unheralded greats.

Jacky Terrasson’s piano playing sounds quite lifelike in this stark setting. One can hear slight echoes and overtones that are natural, and much of the time it sounds as if he is thinking aloud. All of his musical thoughts, asides and unexpected departures are here for listeners to enjoy.

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