Jean-Michel Pilc’s previous four recordings on Dreyfus, and his appearance on Ari Hoenig’s DVD Kinetic Hues: Live at Fat Cat, have identified him as a pianist with ferocious chops, a fearless imagination, and a wildly unpredictable approach to rhythm and dynamics.
These qualities are present, in spades, on Pilc’s new trio album with bassist Thomas Bramerie and either Mark Mondesir or Ari Hoenig on drums. New Dreams reveals that Pilc is also a composer of freshness and depth. Most of the originals here have nature themes, and they usually start with one node like a jewel, a single impulse of lyricism in a few notes. Pilc the improviser then fixes them in place through incantatory repetition (“The Meadow,” “The Brook”) or transforms them through subtle variation (“Trees Part I”) or extends them far beyond themselves in single-note streams (the title track).
But for anyone unfamiliar with Pilc, the place to start on New Dreams is with one of the standards. They are the quickest way to understand the jarring contrasts of tone and motive that Pilc can shape into a single performance. The vast architectures that Pilc erects around “But Not For Me” and “Straight, No Chaser” are ironically irreverent and technically stunning.