Christian Jacob, piano – Beautiful Jazz (A Private Concert) – Wilder Jazz 1401, 56:46 ****:
Christian Jacob was born in France and his earliest musical education was at the prestigious Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Musique in Paris. Once he discovered his love for jazz he moved to the U.S. where he studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and recently he has made Los Angeles his home base. After an extensive period when he was a much sought-after sideman for a variety of artists, and more recently releasing three self-produced trio albums, Jacob has issued this initial solo recital which captures this intriguing pianist at his contemplative best.
Employing a songbook of American standards, coupled with two finger-challenging pieces, Jacob gives the Hamburg Steinway Model D grand a real workout. Jazz writer Steven Cerra has penned the following remarks about solo jazz piano playing: “Solo piano represents the ultimate challenge: the entire theory of music in front of a pianist in black-and-white with no safety net to fall into”. It is clear from Jacob’s mastery of the keyboard that no safety net is required.
With an uncannily adroit technique and a deft touch Jacob starts off with a conventional reading of “How Long Has This Been Going On” but it is replete with classical touches that work well in the confines of the tune. On “That’s All” which has been covered by many jazz musicians, Jacob ups the ante with a 7/4 time signature that works well and gives a different feeling to the tune. Showing his dexterity and classical knowledge Jacob rattles off Stravinsky’s Etude No. 4 F-Sharp Major without a blink.
It is clear that Jacob spent some time choosing the playlist as the compositions give him the occasion to demonstrate an interesting repertoire but also that it facilitates many facets of his musical expression. Although “Tea For Two” is an old chestnut, there are no cliches in the rendition proffered by Jacob. Bill Evans’ playing created a strong impression on Jacob and he has taken two associated tunes “ It Might As Well Be Spring” and “I’m Old Fashioned” to deliver contemporary musical journeys into the pieces . John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” has hamstrung many jazz players on a variety of instruments with its tricky chord changes, but Jacob was undaunted and his execution was faultless.
A thoughtful release filled with elegant solos.
TrackList: How Long Has This Been Going On; That’s All; It Might As Well Be Spring; Stravinsky’s Etude No.4 F# Major; My Romance; Surrey With The fringe On Top; Tea For Two; I’m Old Fashioned; One Note Samba; Body And Soul; September Song; Giant Steps; Till The Clouds Roll By