Michel Petrucciani: The Montreux Years

The pianist's uncompromising musicality was on display at Montreux in the 90s among such as Miroslav Vitous, Steve Gadd and Eddy Louiss


In the last decade of his life, Michel Petrucciani (1962-1999) was recorded “live” at concerts in France, Germany and Denmark. All confirmed the fact that he was a consummate jazz pianist. This previously unissued music maintains a similarly high standard, presenting him in solo, duo, trio, quartet and quintet contexts.

Alexandre Petrucciani envisaged this compilation as a tribute to his late father, and also to Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobbs. Whereas its contents are excellent, the presentation of the album is less than satisfactory. Curiously, the performances (from 1990-1998) are not presented in chronological sequence. Again, a separate listing of personnel (who appear on two or more of the 11 album titles) doesn’t make for clarity, and playing times are inexcusably not provided.

There is little to choose between the selections. On 35 Seconds If Music And More, and Little Peace In C for U, Petrucciani demonstrates that he could as easily direct and contribute to a sextet as he could integrate with a single musical partner or (and most rewardingly) play solo. On Estate (from his 1982 album of the same name) he delivers an exquisite and lengthy solo, ably assisted by his cohorts.

In partnership with Miroslav Vitous on My Funny Valentine, Autumn Leaves and the Miles Davis classic So What, he displays a telepathic empathy and the honours are equal. On Summertime, his scattergun musings are echoed and supported by the mellow organ tones of Eddy Louiss. An alternately raunchy and gentle Miles Davis Licks receives a deserved ovation.

The only solo track is (unsurprisingly) perhaps the best of the best. Take The ’A’ Train, with a hypnotic boogie-woogie left hand and dancing right-hand ending in playful stride mode elicited an enthusiastic and prolonged audience response. Petrucciani was once quoted as saying ”When I play I’m like a bird flying over the landscape, and I can land anywhere.” He could – and did – at all of these Montreux appearances.

35 Seconds Of Music And More; Estate; Little Peace In C for U; Autumn Leaves; My Funny Valentine; Miles Davis Licks; Summertime; Take The ’A’ Train; So What; You Are My Waltz; Rachid (75.10)
Petrucciani (p) and others inc. Miroslav Vitous (b); Steve Gadd (d); Eddy Louiss (org); Flavio Boltro (t); Denis Leloup (tb). Montreux, Switzerland, 1990-1998.