Martial Solal (p)
Reference: FSRCD 943
Bar code: 8427328609432
In June 1966, invited by the shrewd American producer and author Ross Russell, Martial Solal traveled to Los Angeles to record these forgotten and unreleased solo piano sessions. Russell, who had launched the legendary label Dial Records back in 1946 to record Charlie Parker, had spent several years away from the jazz scene after shutting Dial down in 1949. When he decided to return to the jazz record business, he organized a series of recordings at Glendale’s Whitney Studio, which had a wonderful Steinway. Unfortunately, Russell’s new project didn’t come to fruition, and so Solal’s recordings never saw the light.
Now we can finally hear them in two CD volumes. They show Martial Solal at his best, his incontestable talent, dazzling virtuosity and invention, but also his good taste and sense of humor in the execution. The originality of his conception, paired with his elegant control and technique, put him on a par with the great American pianists.
"In 1949 Ross Russell shut down Dial Records, famous for its Charlie Parker recordings, and took time off from the music business. He returned in 1966, determined to start up a new label. He booked some time in the Whiney Studio in Glendale, California and invited Martial Solal to play for three days, as the studio boasted a fine Steinway. Unfortunately, Russell’s plans came to nought, and the Solal’s recordings - enough for three solo albums - remained largely forgotten until eventually bought up by Fresh Sound and now released in what will become a two-volume set.
Usually best known for his own striking compositions, Solal sticks here to a bop and standards repertoire largely dominated by Parker, a choice no doubt heavily influenced by Russell. But in his hands this safe selection is transformed by his imaginative virtuosity, the sudden stops, accelerated passages, clustered chords and dramatic use of the extreme registers refashioning every piece. Night In Tunisia is turned upside down, I Can’t Get Started given a romantic twist, while Now’s The Time is almost vaudeville in its jauntiness. Every track springs surprises, and every track delights. I can’t wait for the second volume."
Jazz Journal (February, 2017)
"Ross Russell is best remembered for founding and running the Dial label during 1945-1948, documenting Charlie Parker and other modern jazz artists from the period. After 1949 he dropped out of the music business, later writing the book Bird Lives about Parker. However in 1966 he attempted a comeback, recording sessions with pianists Joe Albany and Martial Solal. However Russell soon gave up the venture and the dates remained unreleased for decades.
Now, for the first time ever, the three solo piano dates that featured Solal are being released as a pair of CDs. Martial Solal is a still-active innovator whose roots were in bebop but who developed his own adventurous approach to improvising many years ago.
On the first of two volumes, Solal performs 13 classic bop standards, many of which were associated with Charlie Parker. However, even with some swinging sections, these are not conventional bebop jams. Solal states the melodies but varies the chord changes, the time, and even the keys while he is improvising, sometimes playing briefly in two keys at once. He comes up with unique versions of such songs as “Groovin’ High,” “Ornithology,” “Now’s The Time,” “’Round Midnight” and other vintage songs. Solal throws in some stride passages, bits of boogie-woogie, and heated bass lines, but also frequently sounds as if he is thinking aloud, taking his time between ideas. His wit is very much present and the results are quite unpredictable."
Scott Yanow (January, 2018)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"Moins d'un mois après le disque «En direct du Blue Note», en trio (23-24 mai 1966), Martial Solal répondait à l'invitation de Ross Russell, producteur en 1946-47 des sessions californiennes de Charlie Parker, et qui publia au début des années 70 une biographie du saxophoniste. Rien de surprenant donc si les sessions font la part belle à Parker, dont Martial Solal revendique volontiers l'influence. Comme il l'écrit dans son autobiographie (Ma vie sur un tabouret, Actes Sud, 2008), évoquant le tout début des années 50 «Pour la plupart d'entre nous, jeunes musiciens français, il n'y avait aucun doute: ce style serait le nôtre. Nous ne jurions que par Parker et par ceux qui avaient enregistré avec lui».
Le répertoire de ce disque l'atteste: Parker (ses compositions, et les standards qu'il affectionnait), Gillespie, Monk, Bud Powel... Le résultat musical est éblouissant: liberté de traitement, surprises à tout va, déboulé vertigineux des phrases et bifurcations inattendues! Sur Embraceable You, comme le faisait Parker dans une des versions de 1947 pour le label Dial, Solal ne fait qu'effleurer le thème et musarde autour de Lover Man. Et sur l'ensemble des plages la liberté est au programme. La plupart des thèmes sont joués dans leur tonalité originelle, ce qui n'exclut naturellement pas les escapades extra-(ou poly)-tonales.
L'enregistrement n'est pas parfait [...], je puis vous assurer que ces relatifs défauts n'altèrent en rien le plaisir de l'écoute. On peut donc remercier Jordi Pujol, de Fresh Sound, d'avoir exhumé ce joyau, d'autant qu'un autre volume s'annonce."
Xavier Prévost (26 Décembre, 2017)