JEAN-MICHEL PILC / “Jean-Michel Pilc Mixtape”

MP3 03 Jean-Michel Pilc Mixtape.mp3 (73.25 MB)

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Well, first of all I don't really sit and decide to write an album of music. I don't really work that way. As an artist, I don't believe in intentionality, or music with a concept. It may not be the answer you were hoping for, but I have to be honest, right? It's like sex, the less you are wearing the better it is.


Or to put it another way, it's the difference between the talk of politicians and normal persons. If you listen to politicians, in their speeches they have intentions and concepts in what they are saying. They sound very convincing. Actually they convince lots of people with what they are saying. But they don't sound normal. If you listen to them, they will never, ever, ever sound like normal people expressing themselves. Or very rarely. It's very special when they do. Everybody knows they are lying . But when a normal person talks to you, you just listen to what the person says in a very natural way. You don't need to be convinced. There's no [intention] in what they are saying, its just human communication, more basic. For me, music is interesting when it falls into the second category, not into the first. I have this problem with people who have lots of concepts and intentions in music. I think it sounds like politics. It sounds like they are trying to convince people with a whole bag of tricks, and for me music is much more simple than that. It's an expression of my voice and if I convince people with it, I hope I do, it's not my goal. I have no goal, actually. I have no choice. I'm just speaking with my own voice and if this is to the liking of some people listening, then great. It's a very natural process. I'm like a little child when music goes through me. I'm just a little child that lets music go through me and I don't have any concept, intention, or goal. I'm just a music emitter. All those things on the record are things that I hear, and things that I feel. It's based on the feeling, not on a goal or a concept. Those words are really foreign to me.
—Jean-Michel Pilc

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This one is easy to explain. Jean-Michel Pilc is a self-taught, jazz pianist from France who plays with the total abandon/total commitment of an idiot savant. Nobody ever taught him not to play the way he plays so he plays with complete abandon, except it’s tempered by a cutting edge structural sensibility.

He literally makes it up as he goes along but the real beauty is not the improvisation but rather the overall result when he completes his performance. There is a sense of completeness to the arcs of his flights. He was not simply flitting about in the musical sky, he was sharing observations with us, taking us somewhere, showing us the world we know in a way we never knew it.

Although he composes originals, for now I am focused on how he transforms standards. I think this is a healthy way to get into his playing. If you are into jazz, you know most of the songs he does here but initially you may not recognize how he hooks up the songs.

Additionally, please note that all of the tracks are taken from live recordings. No going back to punch in corrections. No second takes, third takes, fourth or fifth takes. No engineering tricks to compensate for weaknesses. No coming back another day because we weren’t feeling it when the tape was rolling. No. This is the sound of what is, in the moment.

The repertoire is both standard and also occasionally inspired. The Mixtape tunes are taken from three albums that feature two different trios. I like the Iridium set the best because of the drummer Mark Mondesir but that’s more about my taste than about some innate superiority of one trio over the other. In any case, I like the song selections and more than the songs themselves, I like that my man finds something new to pour out of those old bottles.
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Finally, I'm on purpose avoiding the obvious comparison thing. I will not tell you who he sounds like because I want to let your ears be free to listen to surprise rather than listen for expectations. Nevertheless, just from looking at the playlist and listening to how he approaches his music making, we can be certain that he has a penchant for Monk. And Trane. Heavy influences.

I will note that it’s obvious on the Sweet Basil recordings that Jean-Michel has to fight through cash registers and patrons talking. But thankfully he presses on and eventually tames the barbarians with the power of music.

His technique is incredible, a fitting complement to his outlook and approach. Particularly dig how he uses his left hand, often playing more with the one hand generally not taken than the average cat does with two mittens, claws or whatever they use instead of seeking fingers, i.e. fingers that are searching for something other than practice exercises.
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But I don’t want to analyze too much what he is doing because I believe Jean-Michel Pilc is more about feeling than thought. More about savoring the journey rather than rushing to the destination. And that’s crucial to making something new in this old world.

Okay. Too many rational words spoil the magic of music.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Jean-Michel Mixtape Playlist
On the Sweet Basil sets the band is Jean-Michel Pilc – piano, François Moutin – bass,  and Ari Hoenig – drums. Available as a 2-in-1 mp3 download album.
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Together Vol 1 – Live At Sweet Basil
01 “Softly As A Morning Rise”
02 “My One And Only One”
03 “Bye Bye Blackbird”
04 “My Foolish Heart”
Together Vol. 2 - Live At Sweet Basil
05 “On Green Dolphin Street”
06 “My Funny Valentine”
07 “All Blues”
On the Iridum set the band is Jean-Michel Pilc – piano, Thomas Bramerie – bass, and Mark Mondesir – drums.
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Live At The Iridium
08 “Jackie-Ing Part 1”
09 “Misterioso”
10 “Green Chimneys”
11 “Jackie-ing Part II”
12 “Spiritual”

This entry was posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009 at 6:56 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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