A lot of people first became aware of French pianist Michel Petrucciani through his work with Charles Lloyd in the early '80s. Standing barely three feet tall, he lived with complications from glass-bone disease, a painful, genetically transmitted condition known to medical science as osteogenesis imperfecta.
The phenomenon that was pianist Michel Petrucciani (b. December 28th, 1962, d. January 6th, 1999) is brought to life by this double-feature DVD from Dreyfus Records. Containing the hour-long documentary (Non-Stop Travels With Michel Petrucciani) that aired on many PBS television stations and a concert performance (Michel Petrucciani Trio: Live In Concert) in Germany, this wonderful DVD brings clarity to the person and musician that was Petrucciani. The single strongest emotion that keeps pouring forth as Petrucciani speaks and plays is his enormous talent and forever optimistic and humorous demeanor trapped in a body with a degenerative bone disease that would fail him before he turned forty.
This CD features a logical combination of two talented Frenchmen, violinist Stephane Grappelli and pianist Michel Petrucciani, who had never recorded together before. With the assistance of bassist George Mraz and drummer Roy Haynes, the co-leaders romp on a variety of standards. Petrucciani was 32 at the time of this June 1995 set, a mere child compared to the 87-year-old Grappelli. Despite his age, Grappelli's violin playing sounds as youthful and enthusiastic as it had been in the 1930s; the 60 years of practice had not hurt. While Petrucciani's music is usually in the Bill Evans post-bop vein, he was happy to visit Grappelli's turf on this occasion, mostly playing veteran standards.
After five years during which he emerged from France to become an important figure in the international jazz world, pianist Michel Petrucciani (still a few days shy of his 23rd birthday) debuted on Blue Note with this superior trio outing. Assisted by bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Eliot Zigmund, Petrucciani sometimes shows off the influence of Bill Evans both in the nearly equal roles played by the instruments and in his chord voicings. However, the pianist's own personality does shine through often on the set, which features explorations of four of Petrucciani's tunes, "Night and Day," and "Here's That Rainy Day." Superior post-bop music played by the already brilliant pianist.
Music was a slight departure from pianist Michel Petrucciani's usual Bill Evans-influenced recordings of the period. Petrucciani uses synthesizers (his and Adam Holzman's) on all but two selections, but these are very much in the background, making the ensembles sound a little larger than they actually are. Petrucciani's ten originals range from romantic ("Memories of Paris") and manic ("My Bebop Tune") to charming ("Lullaby") and funky ("Play Me") with a generous supply of Latin-tinged pieces and one rhythmic vocal by Tania Maria; Joe Lovano (on soprano) and the accordion of Gil Goldstein make one appearance apiece.
The diminutive French pianist Michel Petrucciani continues to display immense talent at the keyboard, but for a change, he's turned to another musician to arrange his original material. Seasoned arranger and superb trombonist Bob Brookmeyer makes a major contribution, adding very different shadings than the leader would have chosen. Rich unison lines flesh out "35 Seconds of Music and More," and Brookmeyer creates an especially melancholy mood for "Colors." An ominous introduction to "Training" dissolves later into a joyful bossa nova. This recommended CD also features trumpeter Flavio Boltro, saxophonist Stefano Di Battista, bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Steve Gadd.