Recommended: Jean-Michel Pilc – “What Is This Thing Called?”


Jean-Michel Pilc - "What Is This Thing Called?"A seriously absorbing solo set from pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, who casts a myriad of reflections off the classic gem, Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?”  More vignettes than songs, most of the album’s 31 tracks don’t go over two minutes in length.  But in those brief moments, Pilc finds a way to say quite a bit.  Impressive without being showy, succinct without being trite, Pilc gets right to the heart of the matter with each piece.  The effect is one of clarity in the moment and a gradually increasing expanse of imagery over the course of the album… tiny snapshots that allow a view of the big picture to slip in along the way.

Cole Porter’s song is the inspiration, tether, jump-off point, binding agent and thematic device.  Pilc deftly ranges both near and far from the original, but he never gets too close and turns the album into some by-the-numbers tribute album, and he never strays so far from the theme to nullify the concept in its entirety.  Pilc changes things up.

The scattering marbles of “Glide” is followed immediately by the Sunday morning solemnity of “Look,” which, in turn, is followed by the glittering downpour of “Cross,” and each sounds as natural flowing one from the other as if they were all poured from the same glass.  None are glaringly obvious homages to the Porter original nor do they completely turn their back on where they’re from.  And speaking of that original, Pilc’s minute-twenty reverie on Porter’s classic tune is endearingly sweet, gently touching upon the melody with the care of a parent brushing hair away from their child’s eyes.

Pilc answers the titular question with the closing track “Now You Know What Love Is,” a song that is reverential, arresting and sometimes a bit whimsical.

Your album personnel:  Jean-Michel Pilc (piano, whistling).

Released on Sunnyside Records.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon | eMusic