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[Off The Record]
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Jacky Terrasson
À PARIS . . .
(Blue Note)

Terrasson came to the fore both as the winner of the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition in 1993 and as the leader of a New York trio that gained a reputation for its ability to make spontaneous hairpin rhythmic turns. Now, after three albums as a leader and numerous collaborative projects, Terrasson looks to the city where he was raised (by an American mother and French father) for lyrical inspiration. The tunes here are mostly derived from the standard bearers of French popular song — Barbara, Brel, Piaf — and of course there’s Cole Porter’s " I Love Paris. "

Terrasson’s famed first trio (with Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Leon Parker) is here for maximum rhythmic flexibility. But so is harmonica player Grégoire Maret, providing the kind of melancholy lyricism associated with the Belgian chromatic harmonica of Toots Thielemans, and, representing the French Gypsy jazz tradition, Bireli Lagrene. Terrasson himself alternates on acoustic and Fender Rhodes piano. He can conjure the smooth gospel roll of early Keith Jarrett or a full-bodied McCoy Tyner assault, but this album always has its own character, even when the sources threaten to succumb to twee. Piaf’s " La vie en rose " gets some dissonant Monk voicings, and even " La Marseillaise " makes a halfway convincing ballad. It’s Terrasson’s sense of the blues, his varied attack, and his Americanski free-association improvs that make the whole thing work.


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