What's so good about Jacky Terrasson?

I got to see Jacky Terrasson perform live at the Zinc Bar as part of Winter Jazzfest in New York back in January. It was a standing room only crowd, and he did not disappoint - with his trio mates he played a solid 40 minutes of music: I don't remember any breaks, and I don't remember any talking until the end of the set. The audience was entranced - he moved from the keyboard to the inside of the piano and played inside and outside of harmonies...we never knew what to expect. The highlight for me was his combining "Beat It" (that Michael Jackson chestnut) with "Body and Soul" (the jazz standard). It worked beautifully, and I knew it would be a pleasure to have him play at the jazz festival in Toronto.

Jacky Terrasson burst onto the scene in 1993 by winning the Thelonious Monk Competition. He released his highly acclaimed debut album on Blue Note in 1995, and spent a year on the road with the outstanding vocalist Betty Carter. Jacky's playing is high energy, at times sounding, when in a trio setting, that he could shed his bandmates and handle things on his own. He's one of those players I am happy to sit back and enjoy, even if I don't totally get what's going on - if a note doesn't seem to fit, or a rhythm shifts unexpectedly, it's always planned, and he always resolves it. Here's his trio version of "Smile" by Charlie Chaplin:

Jacky's style is hard to pin down, and that's what makes him so exciting. In one moment he'll be playing straight-ahead bop; the next he'll be into boogie-woogie. Then he'll veer into the improvised world, and return with some heart-wrenching, gospelly blues (his version of "Mo' Better Blues" is incredibly moving every time I hear it). His repertoire choice is just as varied: standards, originals, pop tunes, sprituals - all are subject to Jacky's interesting interpretation. Check out his solo piano version of "Just a Gigolo" - a sort of stride performance where something just seems a bit off-kilter, and a surprise ending...great Terrasson fare!

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