Martial Solal is a nuclear physicist of the piano. He tinkers with the subatomic structure of compositions, moving elements around, pulling them apart, and smashing them together in ways that both surprise and delight. Solal was born Algiers in 1927, settling in Paris in 1950 where he worked with Django Reinhardt and American expatriates Sidney Bechet and Don Byas. He has maintained an impressive creative profile for the past 50 years that involves solo, small group, and big band formats. Solal has also been a successful movie soundtrack composer, producing music for Les Acteurs (2000) and Ballade a blanc (1983).
Now in his 80s, his performances take on the aire of a grand event. As such, it is fitting that his October 12, 2007 solo appearance at New York City's Village Vanguard was captured and released as Live at the Village Vanguard: I Can't Give You Anything But Love. His previous live recording at the Vanguard, NY1: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 2003) was met with much adulation as was the show that generated it in the wake of September 11, 2001.
Relaxed and amiable, Solal banters with the crowd in his French-accented English, explaining that they both must be good as he is making a live recording. He then proceeds to stroll through a recital of seven standards are two original compositions in what can only be described as in a very post-modern, deconstructionist manner. His command of the material is paradoxically dense and atomized with playing that betrays a knowledge of all styles of jazz piano, which he picks and chooses to employ at his creative whim. That "whim" is very informed. "On Green Dolphin Street?" he turns the familiar melody inside out, re- harmonizing and redefining the piece well beyond its early 20th Century origins.
Solal transforms the interrogative "Lover Man" into a declarative statement of fact and strains the brains of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" through modernity's defining sieve, exposing all of the soft underparts Monk didn't. Solal extends the language of Monk further than any other pianist. His two original compositions, "Centre De Gravite" and "Ramage" are no less compelling, acting as an extension of Solal's artistic command. Live at the Village Vanguard: I Can't Give You Anything But Love is as perfect a jazz recording as we could hope for. Few giants remain, so let us honor Martial Solal
All About Jazz
"Mr Solal returns to the Vanguard without a bassist or a drummer, becoming only the second pianist to headline a week at the club as a solo act. It will be an occasion not just for admirs but also for new converts. And as far as pianism goes, it will probably stand as one of the jazz events of the year"
New York Time
The Pianist Mortial Solal opened his week at the Village Vanguard on Tuesday night by rolling through tunes that jazz musicians have been amusing and sharpening themeselves with for 50 years or more... One of the world's most imposing jazz musicians - being 80 has not dimmed his agility or his imagination - he interpreted easch passing moment of the songs as a provocation : spinning out a quick cycle of chords from just one, or interrupting the shape of a melody to add on a whole new structure, invented at breathtakin speed... "
New York Time
Martial Solal's early set at the Village Vanguard tonight was as exuberant as expected. The ghost of Tatum was riding high, as the French pianist, celebrating his 80th brithday with only his third appearance in New York city in the past 44 years, mad-dashed through a dozen or so standards in ways that no one has ever heard them, carving up the scores like a cubist ( more braque than Picasso, with shards of Duchamp tassed in for wit ), stretching and squeezing bars, yet somehow sustaining the tempo and the melody with tenuous but seamless aplomb. His music might be a mere virtuosic lark, were it not for his harmonies - brooding, bristling, caramel-rich chords, clusters of them, alternately embellishing, paring down, or playing against the conventional changes. The Vanguard was as packed as I've ever seen it on a weeknight..."
It was appropriate that Mr Solal chose "Here's That Rainy Days" as his third number : As 9 p.m. approached during his opening set on Tuesday, the Vanguard was packed to the walls with clods like myself, who, in our unrestrained zeal to catch Mr Solal in a rare New York appearance, neglected to bring our Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The Room was so full that no one apart from Mr Solal Himself and a few slim waitresses could even move.... a great quality of some of the best musicians in that you can hear the whole history of the music in their playing, and while that's certainly true of Martial Solal, what's even more remarkable is that you can get a sense of the future of the jazz piano as well, and it's hard to image a brighter one"
The New Yorker Sun
To label Martial Solal the greates European Jazz pianist does him disservice, the cognoscenti know he's the world champ. The Algerian native, who moved to Paris when he was twenty-two, celebrates his eighteth birthday here, presenting his staggering virtuosity and proudly idioisyncratic style in a week of solo performances. A live reconding is promised, but you'll be pleased to tell your grandchildren you witnessed the Master in Action
The New Yorker