Jacky Terrasson - p
Ugonna Okegwo - b
Leon Parker - d
It's been a pretty exceptional week for piano trios: Jason Moran, Bojan Z, Susie Ibarra (if that counts as a piano trio) and now Jacky Terrasson (let's not forget McCoy Tyner before them). It's been the kind of happy week that makes you breathe deeply, smile and think that jazz is alive, well and fragrant. While Terrasson's was the most traditional of the week's trios, his appropriation of the standards repertoire was just as personal as, say, Ibarra's compositions.
An example of Terrasson's personalisation came early, as the concert started with a 5/4 version of "Smile" augmented by a Jarrett-ian pop-gospel-blues riff. Ugonna Okegwo played a syncopated almost-vamp that implied another meter, creating a rich polyrhythmic groove. The bassist didn't have an amp, but played directly into the microphone, which gave him a pleasantly non-juiced-up sound, like organic food to the bass amp's industrially inflated produce. They reached a euphoric climax when the added riff was repeated emphatically over and over, before dissipating in an Impressionistic haze. A conceptually similar approach to "St. Thomas" closed the concert, this time with Leon Parker playing half-time funk under Terrasson's sunny calypso.
Terrasson is an easy-to-love crowd pleaser. Not because he indulges in showy effects (though there were a few - and why shouldn't there be, anyway?), but because his superb pacing gives his playing a real dramatic arc and a sense of humour. He allows himself, and us, time to think and breathe. So, an improbably long, densely chromatic line will land comfortably on the tonic and the one, the demands of form will be casually set aside for moments of percussive joy, and just as easily returned to.
"Caravan" was sly and slinky, with a playfully provocative piano solo, to which Parker gave understated replies. The drummer then took his own solo, magnificently full of dynamic, rhythmic and timbral contrasts. On "Crepuscule With Nellie," there was far less formal recreation than in Moran's version, but the minimalist swing was powerful.
This concert was part of a full day of free concerts entitled Jazz in Europe Now. Earlier, I attempted to go see young Hungarian saxophonist Gabor Bolla at the Music Village, but it was overflowing. I got no further than the sidewalk. What I did manage to hear sounded like athletic, Michael Brecker/Branford Marsalis post-bop.
I'd never been to the Pathé Palace before: it's a movie theater with unexpectedly great sound that put the Ancienne Belgique's handling of Moran's trio to shame. All the concerts were packed - 100 people were reportedly turned away from the Terrasson gig - which is partly why I didn't go to any of the other events. The other reason was competition.
There were two concerts at the Archiduc the same day: the young improv duo Sparks (myspace) and the Lew Tabackin Trio (seen at the Archiduc 3.5 years ago). By the time I got there, Sparks was long over, but I had a great Chimay-fuelled chat with bassist Tom Blancarte (myspace) and trumpeter Peter Evans (myspace) about life in NYC, Geneva's bizarre ghost town quality, the popularity of Belgian beer in America, salsa and the heaping of much praise on Taylor Ho Bynum ("that's how he talks!"), among other things.
I actually stayed just long enough to catch Tabackin's first solo, which exuded a wonderful, deep, powerful swing. Once again, I couldn't help but feel that if talented people simply continued to make the music that was real to them, then jazz would be fine, even in this moment of jazzblogosphere doubt.