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New Dreams by Jean-Michel Pilc

Jean-Michel Pilc has done it again. That is, Pilc has recorded yet another superlative album merely by letting the intricacies of his imagination and the condensation of his knowledge of jazz flow through his fingers to his piano’s keys. Pilc provides ceaseless delectable ideas, often unexpected and yet entirely logical, and one would expect their flow to continue unabated even after the recording equipment is turned off, such is the force of Pilc’s musical energy. Pilc’s substantial talent, like that of other jazz heavyweights, shapes the contours of everything he plays, as if he were in conversation rather than in concert.

On New Dreams, Pilc’s fifth Dreyfus Jazz release, Pilc supplies yet another chapter in his continuing work in progress, in some respects picking up where he left off and in others moving on to other themes that he hadn’t recorded before. The wit and technical ferocity remain intact. Recorded in Paris in 2006, New Dreams includes two drummers: Mark Mondesir (from Pilc’s Live at Iridium, New York CD) and Ari Hoenig, who joined Pilc on most of his previous CD’s. As aways, Pilc is a challenge to follow, for the bassist and the drummer never know which direction a performance will go which makes the Pilc recordings so tantalizing and which makes working with him a fascinating challenge. Purely spontaneous improvisation, each Pilc performance uses theme or chord structure only as guideposts, to which he returns occasionally to check in before launching into additional wild rides that swirl and double back and jolt and veer apparently out of control, only to return to base once again.

The tour de force of New Dreams perhaps is "Satin Doll," which Pilc wastes no time in making his own, as he recrafts into a new song, uses as the basis for unending quotes, remodulates, swings, downshifts, moves into ever-changing rhythms and contrasts powerfully loud and crashing chords with the delicacy of sweet treble notes. Within the confines of a single song, Pilc quotes, to name just a few, "Makin’ Whoopies," "’Round Midnight," "There Will Never Be Another You," "There Is No Greater Love" and "I’m Beginning to See the Light." The now-recognizable interplay between Pilc and Hoenig, as the drummer closely follows Pilc’s rhythmically teasing whims, from four-four to three-four and into broken rhythm and back again, is present again. The opening track recorded with Hoenig in the same session, "But Not for Me," provides even more delights as Pilc evolves soon from the melodic confines of the song into uncharted territory, allowing Bramerie to solo as Pilc glitters slight accompaniment behind him. And then Pilc switches melody and cascading lines to his left hand as his right hand embellishes. As if that weren’t surprise enough, he transfers notes of melody between left and right hands, moving throughout the entire length of the keyboard to expand his expressiveness to the fullest possible range.

Beyond the standards which also include a wild tornadic personalized version of "Straight No Chaser" that’s so unlike Monk’s technique and so typical of Pilc’s Pilc includes Robert Schumann’s "Widmung," which not only demonstrates Pilc’s classical abilities and fine sense of touch, but also his irrepressible urge to mold material into his own style. After a chorus, the intensity of "Widmung" picks up not to mention the fact that the tempo increases dramatically as the definition between jazz and classical music dissolves in Pilc’s absorption of the beauty of music for personal expression.

New Dreams is distinguished by the number of Pilc composition that he includes in it, and which reveal the more visual aspect of his music as he controls his tendency for explosive highlights and creates quieter, more song-based naturalistic descriptions with titles like "The Brook", "The Meadow" and "Trees." It’s interesting that Pilc includes Schumann in the album because some of Pilc’s pieces develop as lieder, lyrical songs that evoke moods of mystery or contemplation or melancholy. The ostinato driving "Trees Part 1" and Pilc’s beautiful solo development of the song, based occasionally on a quiet call and response, of course are in direct contrast to the seeming lack of restraint of his fury when he breaks open jazz tunes, as if releasing the compressed force within them.

Again, Pilc has created so much music, interjected so many ideas, into a single album that only a fraction of it can be described. Indeed, New Dreams is one of those albums that has to be replayed several time to be fully appreciated. Of course, that’s true of all of Jean-Michel Pilc’s recordings.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jean-Michel Pilc
  • CD Title: New Dreams
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Dreyfus Jazz
  • Tracks: But Not For Me, A Child Is Born, Trees Part 1, Hummingbirds, New Dreams, Satin Doll, Widmung, Old Joe, Action, The Meadow, Burning Path, The Brook, Simplicity, Straight No Chaser, Trees Part 2
  • Musicians: Jean-Michel Pilc (piano); Thomas Bramerie (bass); Ari Hoenig, Mark Mondesir (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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