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Smile by Jacky Terrasson

Jacky Terrasson’s last CD, A Paris.... , marked his departure from American-based jazz groups to a recollection of the music he listened to during his childhood in France. Just as it seemed that Terrasson had mellowed from the thrill of his renowned trio with Ugonna Okegwo and Leon Parker, instead his new trio adds depth and grace to his music.

"Depth" because Terrasson hasn’t abandoned adventure. Rather, he has mastered it. A jazz classic like Bud Powell’s "Parisian Thoroughfare," which other pianists perform without much change from the revered original, undergoes a metrical conversion to 7/4, not to mention Terrasson’s own personalization through improvisation that refers back to "Cumba’s Dance" from his Alive and eponymous Jacky Terrasson albums.

"Grace" because Terrasson has gone from sometimes overwhelming percussiveness to a touch with firm control, for example, on "Autumn Leaves," which he plays contrapuntally without accompaniment. None of the tracks on Smile contains the hell-bent aggressiveness of his American trio. Instead, all of the tunes are handled with firm assurance combined with subtle metrical complexity, even as the internal meter may vary within a traditional 4/4 time signature.

Some of the tunes from Smile were tested before audiences during the A Paris.... tour, especially "The Dolphin" and "Parisian Thoroughfare." Thus, Smile grew organically from that branching repertoire with the new trio consisting of Sean Smith on bass and Eric Harland on drums. For some of the new arrangements on Smile, such as those for "Isn’t She Lovely?" and "Mo Better Blues," Terrasson adds the electric bass throb of Rémi Vignolo.

The title tune represents all of the strengths of the CD itself: meaningful intent arising from the songs themselves, fluid interactive playing, metrical tinkering (5/4, in this case), exquisite touch, absolute control and concern for the emotions of the listeners. Smile presents Jacky Terrasson with a new trio based in France, and it represents another signpost in his the journey of his career to date, his more recent reflectiveness balanced by his well-known fury at the keyboard.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jacky Terrasson
  • CD Title: Smile
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Tracks: Parisian Thoroughfare, Mo Better Blues*, Smile, Sous le ciel de Paris*, Isn’t She Lovely*, The Dolphin, Nardis, Autumn Leaves, My Funny Valentine, 59
  • Musicians: Jacky Terrasson (piano); Sean Smith (acoustic bass); Rémi Vignolo (electric bass)*; Eric Harland (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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