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Michel Petrucciani: Trio In Tokyo

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With this first posthumous release of Petrucciani’s keyboard wizardry, the impact of his untimely death in early 1999 is felt even more profoundly. It was recorded live at the Blue Note in Tokyo with his favorite backing: Anthony Jackson, bass, and Steve Gadd, drums.

The comfort of the moment (Nov. ’97) and the mutuality of the “conversation” are obvious. Petrucciani tends to dominate-particularly with his repeated phrases-but he always lets Jackson and Gadd share their ideas, not only in solo statements, but in the overall mix, where they could spontaneously push each other in specific directions.

One cut, “Home,” provides a microcosm of the session as well as Petrucciani’s prodigious technique. It begins with his typical introspective, then settles on a moderate Latin pulse, with Jackson quietly accenting one and three.

But the sensation of a floating bossa nova and Petrucciani’s syncopated, jabbing left hand produces a wave of intensity so perfectly controlled you wonder whether the tempo has doubled and the recording volume jacked up. In reality, it is a study in crescendo: to an internal climax with Jackson and Gadd instinctively following their leader and releasing the tension-again in synch-with a gentle ending. When it falls in place in a live situation, there is nothing more satisfying.

The swagger and poetry of Michel Petrucciani will be missed.