Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Michel Petrucianni

I've been meaning for the longest time to share some of the music of one of my hands-down favorite pianists(no pun intended, puh-leeze!), right up there with Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Lennie Tristano- I could go on and on(well, I kinda did already). 

Michel Petrucianni was a great player. He had seemingly limitless facility on the instrument, but never just mindless flash, always used in service of his ideas. His lines were ingenious, often beautifully lyrical, always engaging. It was said of his playing that he combined the pyrotechnics of(an) Oscar Peterson with the poignant melodicism of (a)Bill Evans. 

Every musician of this caliber has something to say to us, though the message may be in their own specialized language. Some are stronger technicians, who wow us with a torrent of notes, a flow of ideas. Another may not possess the kind of technical prowess to give you that sometimes exciting torrential fury of eighth's(or sixteenths if you prefer), but uses space more effectively- or plays something so beautiful, so haunting, that it sticks in your ear and your heart. 

I like every musician for what they have to say, but I must say I do favor those you give you the best of both worlds. Petrucianni was such a player. Here he is in two concert settings. One is in Stuttgart, the other at the Village Vanguard(with special guest Jim Hall). 

I don't know a whole lot about Michel Petrucianni, but there are a few things I've picked up. Here's what I do know about him:

Born December 28, 1962, died January of 1999. He suffered from a genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta, which causes very brittle bones(he'd suffered over 20 broken bones by his adulthood)and in his case, short stature. 

Petrucianni was just a little over three feet tall. Herve Villachaize(Fantasy Island's Tattoo), at 3'11", would be a big dude compared to him. And I at 5'4" would be like Shaq O'Neal. He had special walkers to get around, and was carried much of the time. Still, he managed to have a fairly normal life(and was reputed to have been something of a ladies' man), married and fathered a son. Unfortunately his son inherited his physical condition--something like the great blues guitarist Jeff Healey, blind almost from birth(a genetic disorder)whose son inherited his condition. Sad. 

What survives is the art you make. Petrucianni was an amazing pianist despite his handicaps--though I'm sure having these handicaps was all the more motivation to overcome them. Maybe his talent wouldn't have developed as it did had he been of normal stature. Might have been too busy chasing babes. All I know is that he played his derriere off, as you'll soon hear. Hope you enjoy the music. 


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