The genesis of the duet partnership of pianist Jacky Terrasson and trumpeter/flugelhornist Stephane Belmondo stretches back 30 years. Close friends from their days living and playing in Paris and then while band mates in vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater’s groups in the mid-‘90s, the pair enjoyed a simpatico musical relationship. But they lost contact over the years until six years ago when they reconnected and played a duo show in the south of France. That proved to be the seed of their sublime duo album on Impulse, Mother, that was recorded last fall and in April of this year at Recall Studios in the southern France village of Pompignan.
The stream of imaginative energy flows strong and true on Jacky Terrasson’s new recording, simply entitled Smile. The dazzling jazz pianist performs with panache and exuberance, adding his unique touch to a diverse mixture of contemporary and classic standards. The music remains true to Terrasson’s form, as it is somewhat of a return to the trio format of his early acclaimed recordings. His previous release A Paris paid homage to his childhood experiences in France and with more than a half dozen recordings on Blue Note; he continues to develop and grow into a unique pianist.
This 1980 recording released for the first time – "Formidable" from a 1959 session and five numbers from a 1963 McLean set. While "Formidable" has a strong quintet (with altoist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Walter Davis, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Pete La Roca), the 1963 session has the recording debut of drummer Tony Williams along with strong contributions from Byrd, pianist Herbie Hancock (then also near the beginning of his career), and bassist Butch Warren. The latter unit sticks to group originals by Byrd, Hancock, and McLean, and the music ranges from catchy funk and hard bop to strong hints of the avant-garde.
There are three qualities about pianist Jacky Terrasson's music that make it irresistible and riveting. The first is that it dances interminably. Secondly, it is jagged and angular—an epithet often used to describe the music of Thelonious Monk and which suits Terrasson well as, even with his singularly distinctive voice, he is genealogically connected. Finally, Terrasson has a penchant for a playful, almost puckish, interpretation, where humor is implicit. As such he negotiates all melodies, even those that are contemplative, with sparkling and almost child-like candor. Above all, of course, Terrasson plays piano with devastatingly beautiful expression, sublime technique and incomparable virtuosity.