August 1998

Jacky Terrasson Trio - Alive
Blue Note CDP 7243 8 59651 2 8
Released: 1998

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]If you have read my previous reviews of music by Jacky Terrasson, you already know that I have praised his enviable ability as a jazz pianist extraordinaire. Terrasson is a world-class musician. This latest live release reaffirms what the jazz world already knows -- that Terrasson has few equals in the realm of contemporary jazz piano. Terrasson plays the instrument with an intuitive natural abandon that is at the same time explosive and deeply sensitive. The proof of this explosiveness lies no further than in track two of this CD, "Cumba's Dance." Just listen to the fire in the last 45 seconds of this piece and contrast that to the emotionally charged, but gently communicated, opening passages of track three, "Sister Cheryl." Terrasson is a complex musician of colorful contrasts.

This album was recorded in 1997 at the famous Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. The performance was captured digitally direct to two-track. My first and only exposure to The Iridium was on New Year’s Eve 1996. In this beautiful, intimate club, which is located just across the street from Central Park and the Lincoln Center, my wife and I, some good friends from Connecticut who are credited with making the reservations well in advance, and some 300 others, greeted 1997. Little did I know that night that only six months later Jacky Terrasson would be recording this wonderful CD in this same place. Everything in life is timing.

Although the quality of this recording is good, it is not exceptional. It is a very intimate-sounding CD with Terrasson's piano taking a larger-than-life dimension on the soundstage. The effect is almost overbearing in the sonic sense; the righteous acoustic bass of Ugonna Okegwo becomes almost an afterthought. Too bad since Okegwo is a killer acoustic bassist.

For any shortcomings in the quality of this recording, the musical performance of this trio more than compensates. Terrasson's group is tight, playing intuitively off of each other in a mix of improvisational and rehearsed passages that are nothing short of spellbinding. The Cole Porter standard "Love For Sale" is treated to a complete makeover that’s both new and creative.

Jazz is about capturing the element of surprise in music. Without a doubt, Terrasson's trio does this on Alive. Miles Davis' "The Theme" is performed with straight-ahead assurance by each member of the trio. They meld on this to deliver all the energy, swing and character intended by the composer himself. The soft, deliberate and tender delivery of the final track, "There's No Disappointment In Heaven," is an engaging solo piano performance which deserves the highest recognition. Terrasson's emotion pours out all over every beautiful, lingering note of this piece.

Is this the best Jacky Terrasson recording that I own? I'm not sure that it is. But then again, as a jazz pianist, Terrasson has few peers. Anything that he does is often better than most everything that anyone else does. The subtle element of surprise is definitely captured on this fine jazz performance. Everything in life is timing. I wish New Year’s 1996 had come six months later.