"On this wonderful record, Martial Solal navigates the longitude and latitudes of music with supreme command and assurance."
The dictionary defines longitude as the angular distance east and west of the prime meridian that stretches from the North to the South Pole and passes through Greenwich, England, and is measured in degrees, minutes and seconds." Longitude is also the title of Martial Solal's new Cam Jazz trio CD (with twins, bassist Francois and drummer Louis Moutin) and metaphorically defines the amazing six-decade career of the legendary, octogenarian, French pianist/composer.
Throughout his career, Solal has gone the distance, spanning every nuance and genre with his fiercely individualistic approach to jazz that encompasses swing, the blues, and the avant-garde. And to hear him in this trio setting - where his incredible musical imagination knows no bounds - confirms his commanding profile. As Dan Morgenstern, the esteemed author, critic and director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University writes in the CD's liner notes, There are few greater pleasures in a jazz lover's life than listening to the music of Martial Solal. At 80, Solal seems to find as much joy in the creation of his unique artistry and transmit just as much of a sense of discovery to the listener as ever in his long and brilliant career."
That sense of discovery is evident on all ten tracks. Save for some intricate renditions of the standards Here's That Rainy Day," Tea for Two" and The Last Time I Saw Paris," all of the selections are pure Solal. Slightly Bluesy," the title track, Navigation," Monostome," and Bizarre, Vous Avez Dit," are all danced and tranced with a telepathic, near-free improv, three-way interaction where harmony, melody, and rhythm are stated, blended and morphed by Solal's percussive, darkly Duke-ish chords, angular melodies and Art Tatum/Erroll Garner-ish ivory ticklings.
The originals - and that they are; Solal is a composer - display a wealth of invention and keep the listener in constant suspense. There are moments of kaleidoscopic burst and moments of serenity, and that marvelous variety of sounds that Solal can coax from a piano," writes Morgenstern.
Martial Solal has been coaxing miraculous sounds from the piano for years. Born on August 23, 1927 in Algiers, Algeria to French parents, he started piano lessons as a child, thanks to his opera-singing mother, and he also played clarinet and saxophone. His first gigs started in 1942. Inspired by a radio broadcast, he concentrated on piano, arrived in the City of Light at the age of 22, and in no time he was working in a trio with drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Pierre Michelot called the Three Bosses. He also became the house pianist at Club St. Germain and The Blue Note, and worked with saxophonists Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet and guitarist Django Reinhardt. In 1953 he recorded his first LP, The Martial Solal Trio, on the Vogue label, and released the follow-up, French Modern Sounds, the following year. Three years later, in 1956, he launched his first big band. In 1963 impresario George Wein brought him to North America, where he recorded Martial Solal Trio at Newport, and worked with saxophonist Lee Konitz. His dozens of critically acclaimed records include numerous soundtracks, most notably Jean-Luc Goddard's 1959 film, Breathless. His recent CDs include: NY1 (recorded at the Village Vanguard in the wake of 9/11), Dodecaband Plays Ellington and his 2007 Cam Jazz release Rue Seine with trumpeter Dave Douglas. His status as an icon was confirmed when he won The Jazzpar Prize in 1999, and he even has a competition named after him.
And now we come full circle with Longitude, Martial Solal's latest point on a successful musical map that shows the way to the future.