Daniel A

Martial Solal

174 posts in this topic

I recently realized there's no thread here which thoroughly discusses Martial Solal's recordings. Solal is such an unique performer - a brilliant pianist with a very distinctive touch, a clever composer and a supremely gifted arranger. Him being located in France probably explains why he is not more well known in the States, but even here in Europe he deserves a lot more recognition.

Luckily for anyone who has started to explore his recorded work, his output since the 50s has been huge, and what's more, remarkably consistent. The downside is that a lot of it is very hard to locate outside of France.

Naturally, his style has evolved during the years. Roughly speaking, I tend to divide his playing in three main periods (without trying to sound pretentious here); the swing/bop period of the 50s, the transitional peridod of the 60s, and the "modern" period of the 70s and onwards. Of course, certain elements have been present in varying degree all the way, like influences from classical, and to some extent even avant-garde, music. But there is always his recognizable touch, which somehow seems to adapt so well to all situations, without ever sounding mainstream or remotely like anyone else.

In addition to his solo, trio and occasional mid-size group recordings, there are also his marvellous film scores, and all too few big band recordings. If it's one thing in his long career which I sometimes feel could have been given so much more room, it's his big band leading/arranging. A great pity there haven't been more of them through the years, as remarkable as his compositions and arrangements are.

There are lots of more things to say about his artistry, but I'm going to begin with listing a few of his albums which are my personal favorites. Solal discographies on the web are not easy to find, nor remotely complete. Together with other members of this board I hope we may at least create a body of recommendations to those wanting to hear more of him.

The Complete Vogue Recordings, vols. 1-4, rec. 1953-58

BMG France

Solo and various trio, small group and big band settings.

Solal's Vogue recordings were released in Germany in the early 90s, I believe, but the project seemed to end with one volume still unreleased. A few years ago a new attempt were made in France. Again, only three CDs came out, inexplicably with somewhat different material, this time leaving out a good slice of the big band recordings. I was happy when I learned this year that volume four at last had been released (I think brownie has posted about this here on the board as well). I seriously recommend anyone who is going to check out Solal for the first time to try these, preferrably at least two volumes, as to have a sample of both his solo, trio and big band dates. It's also very good to have this as a starting point, because you'll have his "initial" style in mind when hearing later recordings, which I've found to add to the enjoyment, and perhaps also understanding of the music.

The Vogue recordings represents a variety of set ups, with focus on smaller groups and solo recordings. At this stage Solal still is firmly grounded in a kind of swing idiom, but with apparent influences from completely other kinds of music as well. His technique is already remarkable, but he manages to combine it with a spontanity which may suprise the listener at any moment.

Martial Solal at Newport, rec. 1963

RCA, reissued by BMG France

with Teddy Kotick (b) and Paul Motian (dr)

A track from this album was included on my Organissimo BFT a year ago. Already, he sounds very different from the Vogue recordings. "Poinciana" is like completely different tune altogether, compared to the Vogue trio recording. The pre-bop elements remain to som extent, but there are also some very advanced harmonic influences which today sound more modern than the year of the recording would suggest.

Sans Tambour Ni Trompette, rec. 1970

RCA, reissued by BMG France

with Gilbert Rovere and Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark (b)

Here's an example of the more contemporary style. Again, and this is what makes Solal's music so interesting, there are so evident roots in jazz and other music from the preceding 50 years, and still it's so harmonically advanced that it couldn't have been recorded a day earlier. The two bass players gives a special feel and sound to this session, and I recommend anyone with an interest in Solal, but who have not yet heard this, to check it out. I wouldn't advice anyone to start with it, though.

I'll return with more Solal recommendations soon, but I welcome any other comments and suggestions.

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I tried a bit with this AOTW

Solal

gifted player and arranger, his name on any date perks up my interest,plus he played a lot with my favourite Lucky Thompson

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I'm really curious as to how the sides with Bechet sound, I gather from Brownies post that these'll be reissued too. The recs above are all top Solal

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The Solal sides HAVE been reissued; I haven't heard the reissues, the lp is a marvelous session. I really like Solal; I really can't listen to him for very long, he's so challenging! I agree these are all excellent choices, excellent releases. I also like the recent Blue Note cd and the Storyville large ensemble Ellington.

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and the Storyville large ensemble Ellington.

is that different from the one on Dreyfus?

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Thanks everybody for joining in! I have not heard either of 'Ballade...' or the Bechet recordings, but I know I'll have to check out the Marc Johnson/Paul Motian album soon.

Here's a wonderful example of Solal as a solo pianist:

Improvise pour France Musique, rec 1993-94

JMS 18638-2, 2CDs

The two discs are culled from a series of broadcasts Solal did for Radio France. Astonishing performances all through, and not a trace of the dryer, (IMO) perhaps too analytical side he displayed on the early 70s RCA solo album "En Solo". This set is however strongly recommended as one of the finest examples of modern solo jazz piano I know of.

A link to the JMS website:

http://www.jms-creamrecords.com/cata/page036.htm

Still a lot of his work from 60s and 70s are buried on LPs which are all but impossible to find. Several were released on French Columbia, and two of those found their way over to the US as Milestone releases at the end of the 60s. I have one of those; it's a good club date, recorded in 1966, and was released as Milestone 9014, "On Home Ground". It's worth to seek out.

Edited by Daniel A

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Daniel, great idea to have a thread on Solal!

I got Vols. 1-3 of his Vogue recordings (will have to get the disc with Bechet and Vol. 4 soon, too), then the album of the week disc, and one another trio disc that is similar to the earlier AotW:

B000024JFA.08.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

As you see it has Peter Erskine on drums, and also Marc Johnson on bass.

Strong playing by all involved!

I once saw Solal live, in a trio with Johnny Griffin (probably drunk) and NHOP. They all were clearly not having the best night, Griffin very tired and lacking ideas, lacking the slightest spark, actually, but Solal did turn in the stray good solo, though the highlights usually were the bass solos... strange night! I mean I love Griffin and Solal and I find NHOP okay (but far from my favourite bass player), yet that night I was looking forward to his solo spots the most.

I will definitely have to check out more mid and late Solal, in solo and with large ensembles (of which I haven't heard anything but the few sides on that one Vogue disc).

And of course, me being a fan of the Jazz in Paris series, I have several of those discs where Solal plays as a sideman, and usually is very good!

ubu

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And of course, me being a fan of the Jazz in Paris series, I have several of those discs where Solal plays as a sideman, and usually is very good!

If remember correctly he'd on one of the Jip Jazz Cinema CDs, Andre Hodeir, Kenny Clarke and of course Lucky T.

A few years ago I tried ( and failed) to order a number of Solals on EMI (France) , can't recall titles but they were from the early to late 1960s.Not too much from this period seems to be available other than the disc listed above.

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An album that really opened my eyes (actually ears) this past year to Solal's "modern" style was a live session that he did back in '74 with Lee Konitz, JAZZ A JUAN. Quite good!

31072.jpg

Edited by MartyJazz

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M. Lunky, my apologies, yes Dreyfus not Storyville

90_7.JPG

That looks like a good one Marty!

Edited by jazzbo

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The Blue Note cd is amazing. Don't miss it. It's one of the great trio recordings imo.

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I just spun this disc, and while it may be pointless to recommend severly OOP albums, I couldn't resist bringing it up (even a Google search comes up with next to nothing):

Martial Solal Big Band

Initially released on Gaumont Musique 753 804-4

Reissued and promptly deleted in 1991 (Verve 849 381-2)

Recorded in 1981

Personnel: Roger Guérin, Eric Le Lann, Tony Russo (t); Jacques Bologneu, Christian Guizien, Hamid Belhocine (tbn); Marc Steckar (tba); François Jeanneau (cl, ts, ss); Jean-Pierre Debarbat (ts, ss); Jean-Louis Chautemps (bcl, as, ss); Pierre Gossez (bs, cl); Pierre Blanchard (vln); Hervé Derrien (clo); Christian Escoude (g); Martial Solal (p); Césarius Alvim (b ); André Ceccarelli (dr)

Still at this point, as a new decade arrived Solal had again taken his compositional ideas (focus is on the compositions and arrangements here) a big leap further. I'd dare to say that this is one of the most worthwhile big band recordings of the 80s. The two bowed instruments adds a very peculiar colour, and Blanchard does some soloing as well. There are three shorter pieces, and then the 20 minute "Suite" which occupied one side of the original LP. The Suite is quite remarkable as a big band composition; it shifts through several styles, and does never settle for a steady "groove". I think it manages to keep ones interest during every second.

Should you find this album somewhere - buy it! Should it be of no interest I think I can promise that someone else here at the forums would be willing to compensate for expenses, shipping and then a few dollars for the trouble in order to have it. At least now, after my recommendation... ;)

Edited by Daniel A

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The Blue Note cd is amazing. Don't miss it. It's one of the great trio recordings imo.

Are you talking about "NY1"? If so, I completely agree with you.

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The Blue Note cd is amazing.  Don't miss it.  It's one of the great trio recordings imo.

Are you talking about "NY1"? If so, I completely agree with you.

I am.

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Great timing! I've been wanting to start a Solal collection. Yesterday I searched for a Solal thread and came up empty-handed. Today it appears, as if special ordered.

Solal first caught my ears on some Lucky Thompson albums. After that I began to tune into his singular style and the spark and intelligence he added to whatever group he was playing with. Last year I caught a radio program featuring his collaboration with Lee Konitz and made notes to look for European Episode and Impressive Rome -- both with Texier and Humair, 1968, Jazz a Juan - with NHOP and Humair, 1974, and couple of duet albums with Konitz - Duplicity, 1977, and Star Eyes, 1983. All the selections I heard from these were captivating.

Any comments on the live at the Vanguard album?

Keep the recommendations coming, please!

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M. Lunky, my apologies, yes Dreyfus not Storyville

90_7.JPG

That looks like a good one Marty!

It is a good one!

Also suggest trying this one: Duo in Paris (with Joachim Kuhn).

3460503650329.jpg

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B000024JFA.08.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

As you see it has Peter Erskine on drums, and also Marc Johnson on bass.

Strong playing by all involved!

This is a great disc indeed (the best Solal I have heard, probably) - sadly OOP.

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Though Triangle appears to be out of print, confusingly it is still listed on the JMS website (follow the link in my post above regarding Improvise pour France Musique). I'll send them a mail and see if it somehow can be ordered.

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Solal is a stunningly gifted musician, as pianist (leader or sideman), composer, or arranger. He's very deeply intelligent, and with a distinctive sense of humour that shows up if you listen very intently. The more you put in to his music, the more you'll get out of it.

I happen to love his solo work, and remember especially a 1975 MPS recording called "Nothing But Piano". I had the privilege of recording his solo piano performance in a little Toronto jazz club in late June 1988, and still go back to listen to those tapes--2 hours' worth. I spoke with him about releasing the material, but he felt it was too similar in content to the material included on a sorta compilation record--various French artists--recorded the night before in New York as "9:11 PM Town Hall" for Label Bleu. I don't know if either of those releases is currently around, but I don't care---I have my tapes. ^_^

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My intro. to Martial was via "Triangle" which floored me. Luckily I was able to grab a copy fairly shortly after release. Allow me to join those in praise of this recording. I had a chance to talk briefly to Peter Erskine about this date. When I mentioned it he shook his head, and said that it was a most demanding session, but it was clear from his expression that it was a satisfying one as well.

Dodeka Band Plays Ellington, and the Blue Note release are solid as well. This thread has inspired me to spin "Balade du 10 Mars" with Marc Johnson and Paul Motian later tonight as I bang out some e-mails. (It's a '99 Soul Note release.)

Edited by James

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Well I have good news for those interested in the Triangle album. Earlier today I sent a mail to the address quoted on the JMS records website. I just got an answer, although it's a bit strange.

It appears that both Triangle and Improvise pour France Musique can be ordered directly from JMS. The pricing seems a bit strange, 25,00€ each. The solo album is a 2 CD set, so 25,00€ seems reasonable. But doesn't it seem more than a tad much for the single CD? International shipping is 10,00€ for two CDs, "postal payment" accepted.

After what I've read about 'Triangle' here, it seems as if I have no choice but to order it anyway... :)

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Martial Solal is badly negleted by the recorded companies he has worked with. That so little of the incredible albums (Trio, Concert a Gaveau, En Liberte, Trio - yes, another one -, Son 66) he recorded for Columbia/EMI are currently unavailable is a shame!

At least the marvellous 4LP box 'Live 1959-1985 that had unissued and beautifully recorded performances was reissued briefly on CD.

Solal has been performing for more than half a century and is still one of the more demanding musician and proved time and again that his talent is at the top.

I wish I had caught him live more often. Now that I have the time to attend his concerts, he does not play as often as he used to. He appeared at the New Morning here last year. A superb concert! Then nothing...

His last album (NY1) came out on the Blue Note label. Solal was at his usual magnificient self. BN has a festival up in Paris in April. A lot of lesser players are lined up for that one, but no Solal. To hell with BN!

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Martial Solal at Newport, rec. 1963

RCA, reissued by BMG France

with Teddy Kotick (b) and Paul Motian (dr)

A track from this album was included on my Organissimo BFT a  I welcome any other comments and suggestions.

I attended that performance in Newport '63, but didn't see Solal again until he performed with Lee Konitz in Santa Cruz in late '70s. His recent NYC album with Bill Stewart is a must-have.

f91302t7dwi.jpg

I couldn't agree more, all three musicians are magnificent on this disc.

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I am of two minds about Martial Solal. Over the years I have owned many of his recordings.

I was fortunate to see him play solo piano in person once at The Cafe Des Copains in Toronto.

In person he was amazing. His technical and intellectual abilities came through loud and clear.

Solal was able to take any tune he chose, whether a standard or a jazz classic and turn it into a highly creative personal expression that knocked me back on my heels.

The reason I said I am of two minds is that for my taste, many of his recordings don't connect with me emotionally. They exude a coldness that I find unattractive. There are however quite a number of his recordings that I do very much enjoy. Perhaps my favorite is his solo piano date for Soul Note titled "Bluesine".

His early Vogue recordings are more accessible and I do like them. Two others of more recent vintage that I enjoy are - "In & Out" on Dreyfus Jazz, a duo date with Johnny Griffin;

and the duo recording on the Erato label simply called "Martial Solal - Toots Thielemans".

Peter F

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Solal is a stunningly gifted musician, as pianist (leader or sideman), composer, or arranger. He's very deeply intelligent, and with a distinctive sense of humour that shows up if you listen very intently. The more you put in to his music, the more you'll get out of it.

I agree 100%

His music takes patience and thought (especially on record)

Listening to Sans Tambour Ni Trompette at the moment

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