With 53, the 15th album in a recording career that has now spanned 25 years since his stunning self-titled debut on Blue Note in 1994, the pianist and composer Jacky Terrasson presents a magnificent collection of original pieces in the form of an intimate confession, brought to life by a varied cast of trio mates, and performed at a level of mastery that places Terrasson among of the greatest artists in Jazz.
“Why 53? Simply because I conceived of and recorded this music during my 53rd year, and on this occasion I wanted to make a record that really reflected me,” explains Terrasson. “At the age of 53, a man begins to feel he has reached a form of maturity, is at his peak, and so can look at life with a certain distance and see things more clearly. With this record I wanted to give everything of myself, to take risks, while assuming my career, my artistic choices, my life … and my age!”
Terrasson isn’t holding back. 53 is an album unlike any other in his acclaimed and prolific career. It is a work signaling a turning point in his life in which the pianist dares to venture into the intimacy of his own life story, while throwing himself resolutely into the unknown with new collaborations and new artistic gambles.
And so Terrasson opens up to the world and lays himself bare with an album consisting entirely of his own original compositions. “Over the years I have built up a reputation of covering pieces and thereby making them my own, through a process of formal and stylistic deconstruction that can totally renew the listener’s perception of the piece. I have always enjoyed indulging in this kind of transformation, but here I wanted to break with that, by proposing a musical world directly springing from my own personal compositions. Most of them are recent and I have tried to cover the wide spectrum of my preferred references and directions.”
The result is a collection of 16 tracks that are magnified by precise arrangements. Terrasson takes his listeners on a tour of his musical aesthetics: varying moods, styles, rhythms and references which create a kaleidoscopic universe of sounds. Included are tributes to the pantheon of great masters: notably Keith Jarrett with “Kiss Jannett for Me,” and Ahmad Jamal with the compelling opening theme “The Call,” which sets a high bar for the album from which it never comes down.
The pianist possesses a striking sense of drama, ranging from intimate and sentimental pieces inspired by his personal life (the heartfelt “My Lys” or the poignant homage to his mother “Resilience” which gently closes the album) to more robust compositions: the winding melody and emotional power of “Palindrome,” “This is Mine” after Chaplin’s theme “Smile,” the explosive “Jump,” or his funky re-interpretation of the tune “Babyplum” which Terrasson first introduced on his great 1996 Blue Note album Reach. Other highlights include the sublime ballad “La part des anges,” which is fragranced by the words of Baudelaire when the theme reprises later in the album, and Terrasson’s arrangement of the “Lacrimosa” movement from Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.
To bring to life this remarkably rich and diverse material, Terrasson brought on a range of able collaborators to explore the particular character of each theme through its colors and subtle harmonic textures. After years of experimenting in the studio with varied ensembles Terrasson was intent on creating an intimate balance on 53 and decided to return to the canonical format of a piano-bass-drums trio. Yes – the trio – Terrasson’s preferred mode of musical expression since his debut album introduced the young phenom alongside bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Leon Parker. “The trio is really the ideal formula for me, the one where I feel most free and which I believe allows the richest potential in creativity between individual expression and collective interaction. What I also like is the perfect blend of tone and material: the wood and the skin of the drums, the bass string of the double bass, the ivory of the keyboard… All these materials have a special color and feel which together form a sort of sensuality that I find very stimulating!”
Initially the idea was to record the entire album with a brand-new rhythm section made up of Géraud Portal on electric bass and Ali Jackson on drums, but the pianist instead decided to multiply the perspectives to better underline the kaleidoscopic richness of his music by introducing two other talented rhythmic pairs into the project. On one hand we have Sylvain Romano on double-bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, and on the other, we have Thomas Bramerie on double-bass and Lukmil Perez on drums. “I felt the need for this diversity of approach in order to lend substance to the different facets of my compositions. But I didn’t want anyone to think I was introducing a new official trio! It wasn’t my goal and so no room for ambiguity. All the extraordinary musicians that I invited onto this album were chosen for their musicality and their ability to bring something special to what I do. In my opinion, the result is fantastic.”
|Brand||Blue Note Records|
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