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Philippe Souplet Strides (and More)

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A friend recently sent a YouTube clip of a new stride pianist, someone I'd never heard before.

So permit me to share the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Philippe Souplet:



Edgar Sampson's IF DREAMS COME TRUE is one of the test pieces within the genre, since those who know the idiom have James P. Johnson's 1939 solo recording in their minds. Here, Philippe does all the right things: his tempo is a breezy medium, but it stays steady (some less gifted players start fast and then accelerate), and the result deftly combines a homage to James P. with Philippe's own variations.

But Philippe has more to offer than simply reinventing the stride classics: here's his respectful, moving version of LUSH LIFE, an unhurried reading of the theme (with quiet asides):



Here's a smorgasbord of piano styles, all beautifully played — MULE WALK, HONEY HUSH (for Fats), WHAT'S NEW?, and HERE COMES THE BAND (for the Lion):



Who is Philippe Souplet?

He was born in 1967 in Paris. His father, a doctor and passionate jazz record collector, started Philippe's musical education very early, even before Philippe began to study the piano in his teens. Later, he met the African-American pianist, Aaron Bridgers, a former pupil of Tatum and Teddy Wilson, a close friend of Ellington and Strayhorn. Bridgers became his mentor and and introduced him to an approach based on left hand tenths and rich harmonies.

During the 1980's in Paris, Philippe heard and was influenced by stride piano sensations François Rilhac and Louis Mazetier, and the great Joe Turner.

Like his long-time friend Mazetier, a reknowned medical doctor, Philippe has a simultaneous full-time non-musical career, as a respected mathematics professor at the University of Paris-Nord. His solo CD will be released in September.

He has his own YouTube channel, called “Philippe Souplet," where you can admire his piano style and hear him in duet with the French jazz and gospel singer Sonya Pinçon. Since 2008, Philippe has also regularly worked with pianist Ludovic de Preissac in a program entitled “From Stride to Be-Bop." De Preissac's influences are more modern-sounding but they share a passion for Fats Waller.

Welcome, M. Souplet!

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This story appears courtesy of Jazz Lives by Michael Steinman.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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