Martial Solal: Contrastes

This album, recorded at Jazzpar concerts in Holbaek and Copenhagen, features Solal, the 1999 Jazzpar prizewinner, with his trio and with the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra. Solal’s piano playing is technically brilliant, but it leaves me cold-too many classical music exercises and too many notes. And, the way I hear it, he doesn’t swing. His orchestral writing, which is full of Kentonesque grandeur, is more palatable.

There are three tracks with the trio. Bassist Mads Vinding and drummer Daniel Humair provide a good anchor for the pianist’s skittering runs and kaleidoscopic rush of ideas. The quick-changing interplay of the group attests to its listening skills as well as to its finely tuned arrangements.

Solal’s orchestral charts, heard on five tracks, spring from his piano voicings and lines, making for organic integration of horns, guitar, piano and other instruments. The DRJO is superb. The players execute the complex unison passages, stop-and-go rhythms, rangy dynamics and shifting moods of these pieces flawlessly. Tenor saxophonist Tomas Franck stretches out on “Mythe Decisif” and trombonists Vincent Nilsson and Steen Hansen create a conversational buzz on “En Coulisse.” Guitarist Chico Lindvall, who often doubles Solal’s piano melodies, is a faithful match for the pianist.