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Martial Solal: Just Friends

The liner notes quote pianist Solal as saying, “With Paul and Gary I feel as if I am at the wheel of a high-powered racing car that’s running perfectly.” Paul and Gary are the drummer Paul Motian and the bassist Gary Peacock. It would be difficult to improve on the pianist’s description of the sensation of rhythmic inevitability the three generate.

In some of these pieces the swing of linear motion is not the sole issue; Peacock’s virtuoso solos on “Willow Weep For Me” and “Summertime” and Motian’s exquisite cymbal fills behind Solal’s out-of-tempo on “Hommage a Frederic Chopin” speak of other attributes. When the three are swinging, though, it is a visceral thrill. In many of their recordings, Peacock and Motian traffic in complexity, density and rubato avant garde adventurism. They do some of that with the astonishing Solal, notably on his composition “Sapristi.” The three do an equal amount of straight-ahead cooking. All of it has Solal’s remarkable facility and harmonic imagination, including a delicious retrofitting of “Summertime” with new chords. The elements of his solos come from sources as varied as Ravel, Monk, Evans and, of course, Chopin. He never merely stirs them into an improvisational stew. Solal’s celebrated sense of form selects and marshals them, so to speak, into admirable coherence.

Originally Published