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Misha Piatigorsky

It was a full night around town guitarist John Abercrombie at Birdland, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane at the Blue Note, guitarist Pat Metheny with pianist Brad Mehldau at Carnegie Hall, guitarist Bill Frisell at the Village Vanguard and jazz performances were of the pickin’. Waiting at the front doors of the Iridium Jazz Club was a couple who hadn’t seen pianist Misha Piatigorsky for a few years. "He used to give my husband piano lessons," said the woman of the couple. Gregory Piatigorsky, Misha’s father, was still coming over to their place to tune their piano as he had for years. Piatigorsky, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Ari Hoenig were getting ready to perform music from Uncommon Circumstance (MishaMusic Records), their recent release of "stylish elegance and laid-back hip." [See the review under "CD Reviews," Misha Piatigorsky: Uncommon Circumstance,, at]

The trio opened with the title tune (sans Fender Rhodes piano, as he had used on the recording.) Piatigorsky initially romanticized at the keyboard and played wide-open melodies and chords. Glawischnig came through with a complimentary solo that ran along side what Piatigorsky was doing. This was a push-off point for the group that sent the tune moving at a faster clip. This is the kind of surge you would expect in mid-set. But the spark was ignited early.

Next was Charlie Chaplin’s composition "Smile" from the silent movie Modern Times from 1936. The ballad was tinged with a blue-feel that Piatigorsky tickled his way through. "Land of Confusion" was built upon layers of intensity and muscle. By its end, the music was overwhelmingly full but not loud. It was stimulating to see the trio at work.

By now, it was impossible not to notice Hoenig. He’s an eye-catcher, for sure. He demonstrated a brute physicality to the music that heightened its inventiveness. At times, he and Piatigorsky were visually sparring in a friendly way, both working towards a higher level of communication at the same time attempting to move their audience.

Piatigorsky’s impassioned delivery of the minor-keyed "Nachlaot" was preceded by a hand drumming opener from Hoenig and followed by a rounded, taut solo from Glawischnig. Hoenig added a mystical affect by moistening his thumb and rubbing and circling the head of his floor tom. "Montevideo", a Piatigorsky original, is the name of a small Russian village where some of his family resides. The pulse was laid back and easy. Hoeing played the DJ, imitating a scratching effect on his snare.

There was a homeland congregation in one spot of the Iridium that included Piatigorsky’s parents. His brother was seated upfront next to the stage taking digital pictures (he’s into computers.) Also in the house was Piatigorsky’s employer vocalist Mark Murphy. Decades ago, moonlighting was a no-no for someone already steadily employed. But Murphy seemed like a proud papa in the audience as his musical director and pianist garnered his own praise. As a tip of the hat, Piatigorsky invited Murphy to the stage.

Murphy’s interpretation of the standard "Body and Soul" was rich and dreamy. He warmed his hands and massaged it, relaxed it and spoke each word gently into our ears. He was most enrapturing in his falsetto voice with perfect intonation. He and the group finished off this first set with a swinging "Just in Time".

With so little to hide behind, piano-bass-drum units need to make a quick and fast imprint on listener’s minds to hold onto them as fans. Original compositions and new treads on old tires (standards) is an incentive to not only buy recordings but to attend live performances and experience spontaneous creativity. Piatigorsky is part of the new guard establishing its own standards and trying to attach itself to a fickle and forgetful audience. At times, it’s unpaid work. The hope is that Uncommon Circumstance can put some bread on the table and bring people to the music.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Misha Piatigorsky
  • Concert Date: 4/11/2007
  • Subtitle: Iridium Jazz Club
  • Venue: Iridium Jazz Club
  • City State Country: New York, NY
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