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Michel Petrucianni: Au Theatre des Champs-Elysees

On this two-CD album cut in 1994 Petrucianni performs live and unaccompanied. He proves that he can articulate cleanly while playing very fast, gets a big, firm sound out of his instrument, improvises with intensity and a steady flow of ideas, sometimes employing unusually long lines. But I find this a strangely dissatisfying album. Maybe it’s because here Petrucianni’s primary objective seems to be demonstrating his technical skill and familiarity with various styles.

Not that he doesn’t know plenty; he’s familiar with the history of jazz piano over the past 60 years; you hear the influences of Art Tatum, bop, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett in his work and he’s also derived ideas from classical figures ranging from baroque to conservative twentieth century composers. Petrucciani has played really well without trying to overwhelm listeners, especially as a sideman. Guys like Joe Lovano provide him with a musical context, a direction. But left to himself here he’s all over the place, trying to pour everything he’s learned and can do into one concert. Often his work is decorative, not substantive. He plays the piano impressively, but his taste and musicianship leave something to be desired.

Originally Published