Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Jean-Michel Pilc: Cardinal Points

The next time you hear someone say, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to play jazz,” refer him to Jean-Michel Pilc. That’s precisely the route he took from his native Paris to his current status as one of the Big Apple’s most astonishing pianists, in terms of keyboard technique. Largely self-taught, Pilc shows he is also a formidable composer on Cardinal Points, his second release for Dreyfus. The CD also reveals he is a whistler: on “Trio Sonata, Part 3,” he whistles in unison to his tricky piano line, and then harmonizes with himself. (Someone should tell him the fate of whistleblowers in this country.)

Pilc’s ability to camouflage chords transcends ordinary reharmonization. As for mood swings, he runs the gamut from fragile to fearsome. He’s blessed with colleagues who can keep up with his sudden detours in dynamics and rhythm. Sam Newsome, soprano sax, adds to the dense texture on “South,” provides tasteful staccato comments over Pilc’s persistent comping on “West” and waxes legato over the pianist’s frenetic backing on “East.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published