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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

Leon Parker

T.O.P. comprises pianist Jacky Terrasson, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Leon Parker. The trio worked together on Terrasson’s first couple of Blue Note recordings in the mid-’90s, and they’ve obviously continued to develop and grow together since then. From Wednesday through Sunday nights of last week, the group played New York’s Iridium as part of the French Quarter Jazz Festival-a series of concerts in New York, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and CulturesFrance. The event was held in conjunction with the just-concluded IAJE International Conference in New York City.

T.O.P.’s infatuation with nuance-extreme dynamic contrasts, subtle articulations, slight but significant departures from established form and structure-was apparent throughout. Terrasson’s gorgeous touch was shown to especially good advantage on a clever arrangement of Charles Chaplin’s “Smile.” The pianist interpolated a folkish vamp and impressionist harmonies, transforming the perhaps overly familiar tune into something fresh and surprisingly uncontrived. Terrasson’s heart-on-his-sleeve romanticism was evident, not only on ballads like “Smile,” but on swingers like “Caravan” and “Autumn Leaves” as well. His overt sentimentality was occasionally cloying. More often, his emotional choices were sound.

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