Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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SOLAL, Martial

(b 23 Aug. '27, Algiers) Jazz pianist in Paris since late '40s, often playing with visiting Americans; leading his own trios; doing solo concerts and teaching since the '70s; has also done more than 20 film scores and made several visits to USA (Martial Solal At Newport '63 was issued on RCA). The Vogue Recordings '53-5 were reissued '94 in three vols (trios and quartet, trios and solos, trio and big band). He recorded with Lee Konitz (e.g. quartet Jazz à Juan '74 on Steeplechase, duo Duplicity '77 on Horo), Hampton Hawes on Byg; own LPs on Pathé late '60s, French RCA early '70s. Live was a four-disc set issued on Stefanotis '85, compiling material '59-85 including solos, duos with Konitz, John Lewis, Stephane Grappelli and others; trios, big-band pieces, composition Suite In D Flat by quartet including trumpeter Roger Guerin. CDs include solo piano Bluesine '83 on Soul Note, on Erato with Toots Thielemans, on Vogue with André Hodeir. European big-band CDs from the '80s incl. Martial Solal Big Band on Dreyfus and Plays André Hodeir on Carlyne. Martial Solal/Didier Lockwood '91 was a duo with violin, two-CD Martial Solal Improvise Pour France Musique '93-4 a solo piano set, Triangle '95 a trio set, all on JMS. Just Friends '97 is a trio with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian on Dreyfus Jazz. The solo set is his own selection from 40 half-hour radio recitals, of which Max Harrison wrote that 'to compare, for example, his Pathé, Soul Note and now his France Musique recordings of 'Round About Midnight' is to observe him venturing ever further and more ambiguously into the Monkian labyrinth. That this most recent version is so different from the others, being quite explosively percussive, is what we should expect: Solal has made a fresh set of discoveries within Monk's piece.' Everything he does is fresh; his deconstructions of standards like 'Just You, Just Me' are intelligent, musical and witty.

Solal had his influences from Fats Waller to Bud Powell (the wit reminds one of Earl Hines), but like Hodeir he went his own way, and like Hodeir (as a European) he was not afraid to bring a composer's attitude to jazz. When Miles Davis said, 'Damn! That boy Solal can play!' in '58 Solal already had mature possession of his skills, but few had heard of him outside France. His original compositions and his powerful writing for big band were always praised by more perceptive critics, and if much of his work was done before jazz was perceived as an international language, he has been one of those who changed that perception. Harrison has compared him to Cecil Taylor and Adam Makowicz as a creative pianist.