The sixth of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE), a unique stylist at the peak of his powers.
A track to remind you why the word for making music is playing – a sparkling unaccompanied piece from a remarkable virtuoso pianist, the Algerian-Frenchman Martial Solal.
The self-sufficiency of solo piano comes to the fore here, the way the player can accompany, and comment on, their own lines. There’s a rush of ideas: a sense of a quickfire mind let loose. There’s technique to spare of course, but in service of an unusual imagination.
All the tracks on this solo set show these qualities. This fine version of Round About Midnight is a particular favourite. It has the quality of gleeful spontaneity that shines through the whole set. Solal uses Monk’s most familiar arpeggio to anchor a mini-fantasia, with a satisfyingly original ending.
The record – just 37 minutes on the old LP – is a single entry in a vast discography, covering solo sets, duos, trios, film scores and original works for big band. I haven’t caught up with much of it. He’s had moments of acclaim abroad, but Solal has remained in France for almost all of his career.
I recall hearing him in a trio in a club in Paris. Mid-set, sharing a remark with a friend – very quietly, I thought – I was silently shushed by what felt like everyone else in the place. Quite right too. And with a faithful audience like that, who needs to travel?