Martial Solal has always been a risk-taker extraordinaire, especially in solo and trio settings. His endless flow of ideas, his unpredictability and spontaneity, combined with his great technique and grasp of harmony, can make for challenging and absorbing listening when the pianist is “in the zone,” as he is here. Longitude is quite simply one of the best piano trio releases in recent years, with not an uneven track to be found. At the age of 80, no less, Solal’s creativity continues to be astonishing.
Longtime trio members the brothers François and Louis Moutin, on bass and drums, respectively, provide emphatic and sensitive support as Solal spins out one masterpiece after another. Singling out any one of the 10 pieces would be unfair to the others, but special attention must be paid to a version of “Tea for Two” that flawlessly blends the eccentricities of Monk with the technical polish of Tatum. A dancing, almost tongue-in-cheek reconstruction of “The Last Time I Saw Paris” is highly inventive. Solal’s “Short Cuts” openly borrows from Monk’s “Off Minor” for thematic material, but Solal improvises in his own individual style, and also surprises with a sudden shift to a near-maniacal Latin-rhythmed interlude.
The pianist’s “Longitude” is very free, with a dazzling variety of textures. The dark-tinged “Monostome,” another original, is perhaps the most sizzling uptempo cut on the CD, possessing an inexorable momentum—a tour de force by the trio. The closer, “Navigation,” vividly displays Solal’s relentless imagination and his jaw-dropping ability to seemingly play anything he hears in an instant, no matter how intricate and difficult.