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September 2008

Louis Mazetier
Tributes, Portraits and Other Stories
Arbors Records

There is a group of European pianists—Berndt Lhotsky, Chris Hopkins, Rossano Sportiello, Meral Guneyman, Louis Mazetier—that is largely responsible for keeping the stride piano tradition alive. The most interesting is Mazetier. He uses the genre more broadly, and for larger creative purposes. Stride is his primary path, but sometimes he veers into alternate routes. Sometimes he blends stride meaningfully with dissimilar forms.

Mazetier’s “Sweet and Lovely” is as unsentimental and almost as spiky as Monk’s. “Tea for Two” is another octogenarian song that Monk modernized. Mazetier subjects it to an exploratory, pensive two-minute prologue. Even when his left hand kicks into octaves and oom-pahs, he breaks them up and emphasizes elaborate right-hand decoration. Mazetier’s version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark,” with its blocky chords, is architectural and majestic and not dated.

The most striking piece is the Mazetier original “François (Dedicated to François Rilhac).” Rilhac was a pianist and a close friend of Mazetier who committed suicide in 1992 after a depressive illness. Mazetier’s eulogy begins with slow, sad, dignified solemnity, then suddenly shifts into an ebullient stride section celebrating Rilhac’s life. But the joy is cut short and the piece ends in darkness like a dirge.

Originally published in September 2008
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