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Longitude by Martial Solal

Once again, Martial Solal proves that he continues to be one of the leading jazz pianists, as he has been throughout the past 60 years, though the distribution of his recordings have been sporadic. Solal spends most of the time in France, and he doesn’t receive the awareness and acclaim he deserves across the ocean. As a result, whenever one of his releases becomes available in the United States, it startles listeners with his ever-present wit, vitality and ceaseless imagination, as if Solal were being discovered for the first time.... again. Unfortunately, one of his most widely publicized recent CD’s, NY-1: Live at the Village Vanguard, was recorded a week and a half after 9/11, and his engagement at the Vanguard was sparsely attended due to the once-in-a-lifetime circumstances. Solal carried on nonetheless. However, Longitude was recorded in a studio in Paris after due preparation, and the CD of Solal’s work with his current trio, empathetic and technically astonishing, provides evidence of the wealth of his talent, the result of a lifetime of musical innovation

"Slightly Bluesy" starts the recording, and it gives few hints of the fury and oblique harmonic sense to follow. Rather, with its tentative, rush-and-halt introduction, it serves as a means to introduce the interplay of Solal with the brothers Moutin, bassist François and drummer Louis. That’s not to say that the piece proceeds without changes of mood, for it entirely consists of them throughout its four-and-a-half minutes. The listener can sense the impending changes as Solal outlines the changes as a cue for François to come in, just as unpredictable and technically ferocious as Solal. Generously, Solal features Louis at the beginning as one responds to the other in the unfolding narrative, Louis transforming from accompanist anticipating Solal’s ideas to the other member of the dialogue as he feeds new thought to him.

Solal’s oblique sense of harmony is a constant rather than a quirk. That much becomes obvious as one listens to his interpretations of all three standards on Longitude. "Here’s That Rainy Day" exhibits the alternate perspectives of Solal’s harmonic sensibilities as he keeps changing the tonal centers of the song, defying expectations and involving the listener in his gamesmanship as he inserts a sense of fun into his performance. Eventually, Solal moves into two-handed Tatumesque controlled frenzy mixed with insightful mining of the song’s improvisational possibilities. "Tea for Two" involves the breaking up of the melody, even as he continuously changes key before leading into playful colloque with François, who pursues his own contrapuntal pathways of support for an ingenious instantaneous trading off of the lead. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" is characterized by key changes and the adaptation of melodic fragments into alternative motives and fit together like a puzzle with teasing moments of humor like its cascading ending.

The undeniable power of Solal’s playing is evident on tracks like "Monostome," with its repetitive motive that becomes more forceful every time it’s repeated, interrupted rapid upward sweeps of the keyboard and by winding treble improvisation that moves the piece forward at a fearless pace. "Short Cuts" does the same thing, causing rhythmically disconnected pieces to adhere into a single work as the Moutins as ever enhance the impressiveness of the endeavor, even as they impishly move into a beguine rhythm.

Like other pianists such as Hank Jones or Barry Harris who have embraced the advancement of jazz throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Martial Solal remains in inimitable form and at the height of his career. Longitude certainly proves that.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Martial Solal
  • CD Title: Longitude
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Cam Jazz
  • Tracks: Slightly Bluesy; Here’s That Rainy Day; Longitude; Bizanne, vous avez dit?; Yea for Two; Solalitude; Short Cuts; The Last Time I Saw Paris; Monostome; Navigation
  • Musicians: Martial Solal, piano; François Moutin, bass; Louis Moutin, drums
  • Rating: Five Stars
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