"Best of 2021 Albums of the year: Martial Solal Live albums: Martial Solal Solo recordings: Martial Solal "New York City Jazz, 03-1-2022
Coming Yesterday is the recording of what turns out to be Martial's last concert, he decided to stop playing piano after that show:
"When I walked onto the stage on January 23, 2019, I did not yet know that I would decide not to play piano anymore after this concert, more than seventy years after my debut. To maintain a certain level, this instrument requires your daily attention; it requires delicacy, brutality, and especially energy. I have lived with these demands all my life, with the joy of seeing the progress, the technical and musical advances, the rhythmic and harmonic enrichments that we acquire over time. Of course, everything goes very fast at first. As long as you are gifted, if you spend a little time on it, if you listen to what was done before you, if you choose a path, everything may seem easy. Progress is rapid, illusions are immense, and then walls arise, walls that you want to reach and overcome. Seventy years to achieve this is a minimum... When energy is no longer available, it is better to stop.
I had the impression on January 23 of having reached the beginning of a path that I would have liked to continue, after so many years of improvisation, of creation, based on what are called standards, which I call pretexts, challenges, essay topics that you can develop in a thousand and one ways according to the evolutions that arise in your mind or in your circle of musicians. The standards have gone out of fashion, replaced by other themes that most of the time may not have the qualities to become standards, the so-called “originals”. All musicians considered themselves composers, free jazz burst onto the scene and swept away old themes, eliminating the difficult rules of stability of tempo, harmony and melody. Some standards have survived, and those you will discover can be described as indestructible. They are always only pretexts for expressing ideas, but with relaxed rules, the rubato being entitled to be cited as well as accelerations, atonality or the absence of a continuous tempo.
That is what I was thinking on January 23. Part of this concert seems to reflect my knowledge to this date. For me, jazz remains that of the twentieth century, the one that saw the birth of New Orleans, middle jazz, be-bop, and free jazz. The first three of these jazz eras were built on ternary rhythms. Charlie Parker may have been the first to use sixteenth notes on a medium tempo, abolishing the necessity of this permanent balancing called swing that has disappeared in this form with the emergence of binary rhythms and phrasings. This style of rhythm no longer corresponds to what I considered essential. I preferred a greater freedom, playing on the melting of keys, rhythms, duration, style, rather than on the forced slavery of the “new” ones. Great freedom requires a lot of work. I’ve done my share. I want to thank those who helped me, who helped me progress thanks to their encouragement or criticism, to those who were kind enough to play alongside me, for me, who often played my compositions for years. Too bad for all those who have missed out what I have tried to offer them. Progress is a very selfish happiness. I feel as if I have sown a blade of grass during this concert, showing a direction that I would like to see continue. In some places, this grass has already grown enough to be considered a musical testament… improvised''
Au moment où j'entrais en scène, ce 23 janvier 2019, je ne savais pas encore que je déciderais de ne plus jouer de piano, plus de soixante-dix ans après mes débuts. J'ai eu l'impression, ce 23 janvier, d'être parvenu au début d'un chemin que j'aurais aimé continuer, après tant d'années d'improvisation, de création, à partir de ce que l'on nomme des standards, que j'appelle des prétextes, des enjeux, des sujets de dissertation que vous pouvez développer de mille et une façons, au gré des évolutions qui surgissent dans votre esprit ou dans votre entourage. Certains standards ont survécu, ceux que vous découvrirez peuvent être qualifiés d'inusables. Ils ne sont toujours que prétextes à exprimer des idées, avec toutefois des règles assouplies, le rubato ayant droit de cité de même que les accélérations, l'atonalité ou l'absence de tempo permanent. Voilà où j'en étais de mes réflexions ce 23 janvier. Certains passages me paraissent refléter l'état de mes connaissances à ce jour. Pour moi, le jazz reste celui du vingtième siècle, celui qui a vu naître le New Orleans, le middle jazz, le be-bop, le free jazz. Charlie Parker a peut-être été le premier à utiliser les doubles croches sur un tempo moyen, faisant oublier la nécessité de ce balancement permanent que l'on appelait le swing, ce balancement là ayant disparu sous cette forme avec l'arrivée des rythmiques et des phrasés binaires. Ce style de rythmique ne correspond plus à ce que je considérais comme essentiel. J'ai préféré une liberté plus grande, jouant sur les mélanges de tonalités, de rythmes, de durée, de style, plutôt que l'esclavage obligé des « nouvelles » rythmiques. La très grande liberté demande beaucoup de travail. J'en ai fourni ma part. J'ai l'impression d'avoir, pendant ce concert, semé un brin d'herbe indiquant une direction que j'aimerais voir se poursuivre. Par endroits, cette herbe a déjà suffisamment poussé pour qu'elle puisse être considérée comme un testament musical... improvisé.
Born on 23 August 1927 in Algiers (Algeria), Martial Solal is certainly the French musician who meets with the wider international recognition since Django Reinhardt. From New Orleans, middle jazz, be bop to advanced modern jazz, the breadth of his career and the richness of his work amply justify this distinction, without forgetting the essential: his exceptional talents as an instrumentalist and composer, and the incredible fertility of his imagination in improvisation that made him one of the most admired pianists, far beyond the circle of jazz. Under the influence of his mother, an amateur opera singer, he started studying classical piano, clarinet and saxophone at the age of six, and discovered jazz as a teenager through Lucky Starway, a saxophonist-bandleader who introduced him to the recordings of Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, etc. and trained the young pianist to accompany him. Fascinated by the feeling of freedom through improvisation, Solal decided to become a jazz musician in 1945. This initiation encouraged him to practice intensively his piano technique. Settled in Paris in 1950, he worked in jazz groups, and in variety orchestras (sometimes under the pseudonym of Jo Jaguar), gradually gaining a reputation that earned him quick access to the recording studios: with Django Reinhardt for his last recording session (1953), Don Byas, Lucky Thompson (1956), Sidney Bechet (1957). Asked in the best Parisian clubs by the American soloists passing through (Coleman Hawkins, Clifford Brown, Slide Hamtpton, Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, etc.), he was during ten years the Club Saint-Germain house pianist, frequently associated with Kenny Clarke and Pierre Michelot. Recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist, he imposed himself since 1953 as a soloist with singular conceptions, developing his activity as leader of a trio including in those years Pierre Michelot and Jean-Louis Viale, Guy Pedersen and Daniel Humair (1960-1964 – historical concerts and albums at Salle Gaveau in 1962 and 1963!), or Gilbert «Bibi» Rovère and Charles Bellonzi (1965-1968). Sans Tambour ni Trompette (1970), an innovative project, features the pianist with two double-bass players (Gilbert «Bibi» Rovère and Jean-François Jenny-Clark.
His growing fame led him to be invited in 1963 to perform in clubs and festivals in the United States with Teddy Kotick and Paul Motian, and to record At Newport '63. The trio imposes itself as the setting that perfectly suits the pianist to express the originality of his inspiration, and becomes the privileged place to exercise a thought of enlightened arranger seeking to leave the traditional patterns – both in the form of the tunes and in the roles devoted to each instrument. A master in the art of transfiguring standards, he develops with breathtaking mastery a demanding approach to improvisation, based on constant renewal, his virtuosity feeding an imagination on the alert rejecting easiness or clichés. If one finds in his game echoes of the harmonic refinement of an Art Tatum or a taste of speed and sharpness that reminds Bud Powell, Martial Solal is among the most remarkable pianists by his ability to spontaneously combine a fruitful thought, a precise enunciation, the sense of surprise and that of risk – the abundance of his ideas never affecting the swing or depriving him of his humour. Because as brilliant as it may seem, thanks to the clarity of the articulation and the control of the dynamics that underline the verve of his inspiration, the expression of Martial Solal reveals a malicious character that constantly creates surprises in the more abstract passages – sign of a permanent vigilance that prevents him from getting caught up in the trap of virtuosity. His numerous pun-shaped titles are also a way to preserve himself against a too great spirit of seriousness. Many characteristics of his piano playing are reflected in his talent as a composer. First applied to cinema, for which from 1958 he wrote several film music: the iconic À bout de souffle, by Jean-Luc Godard, and scores for Jean-Pierre Melville (Deux hommes dans Manhattan, Léon Morin Prêtre), Henri Verneuil (L'Affaire d'une nuit), Edouard Molinaro (Les Ennemis) and Jean Becker (Échappement libre), as well as Jean Cocteau’s Testament of Orpheus and Franz Kafka’s The Trial interpreted by Orson Welles. As a result of his growing interest in composition, Martial Solal started writing pieces for small jazz groups: The Suite No. 1 en ré bémol pour quartette de jazz with Roger Guérin on trumpet, Paul Rovère on bass and Daniel Humair (1959) attests that his conception of musical writing is already as advanced as his approach of the piano. Whatever the instrumentation will be, it has to sound 100% Solal! Exciting challenge for a musician who experimented the evolution of the jazz currents that flow freely in his music, was early immersed in the European classical repertoire, familiar with the twentieth century masters (Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinski, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Olivier Messiaen), and curious about contemporary music and crosscurrents. An essential meeting in the fifties with the composer, writer and critic André Hodeir, followed by their long friendship, participates to his ongoing reflection about the place devoted to written and improvised music in small or large ensembles (cf. their first recording, Kenny Clarke’s Sextet Plays André Hodeir, 1956, and Martial Solal et son Orchestre jouent André Hodeir, 1984).
Best of 2021
Albums of the year: Martial Solal
Live albums: Martial Solal
Solo recordings: Martial Solal
New York City Jazz, 03-1-2022
The great improvisations and sound quality are the motivation to purchase this production.
Best Albums of the Year
New York City Jazz Records, 03-1-2022
Top 10 best album of the year 2021
Jazz Magazine, 01-12-2021
Astonishingly nimble and technical on the beautiful Steinway, he is a compelling musical storyteller.
De Nieuwe Muze, 01-10-2021
During the Salle Gaveau 2019, Solal will provide insight for the last time into his fascinating way of improvisation. Indeed from the twentieth century, but with a freedom and fantasy that is disappearing. An exceptional performance in phenomenal sound quality.
Music Emotion, 02-7-2021
Solal said, 'When energy is no longer available, it is better to stop.' This recording indicates that neither his fingers nor his imagination had yet lost their power.
BBC Music Magazine, 01-7-2021
Recorded by the microphones of Radio France, "Coming Yesterday" (Challenge) allows us to hear a mischievous piano mixing cheerfully rhythms and tones on inusable standards jostled with humor.
Le Blog de Choc, 25-6-2021
... With such intoxicating joy of playing, one can only regret Solal's decision to stop.
Fono Forum, 14-6-2021
... What to say in conclusion? Only Thank you, Martial, for your great music, for your love affair with the piano!
... as proof that one can form shining pieces for the eternity and the one day from completely wrung out material with insanity skill and clairvoyance... The joy that always accompanies his playing is also in his nature, that's not news. Solal is a relaxed sage, this record communicates. And also - through jazz - an eternal youth. This is how we internalize him then.
Jazzpodium 06 07 2021, 31-5-2021
... a farewell letter to all those who so adored Martial Solal, this French miracle pianist of Algerian descent, who marveled at his improvisations, in which he always struck elegant hooks, who appreciated his virtuosity, and his knowledge of repertoire, who succumbed to his incomparable wit, his charm...
... And Martial Solal presents with this record another important one, which testifies how much he developed his own style, including the tradition of jazz from New Orleans, through bebop and swing to hard bop and modern expressions of jazz, as well as borrowings from classical music...
''The whole album sounds fresh and vivid, unfortunatly Solal decided to stop playing live concert after this evening''
De Standaard, 19-5-2021
A perfect ending. Solal’s mind was made up. This had been his final concert.
The Guardian, 13-5-2021
... He dissects harmonies, fragments rhythms, improvises freely, fades the melody back in, only to look at it again 'backwards' and reformulate it in a different key/pitch. This is work, or in his words, what underlies his approach to 'art'. Wow!
Na Dann, 12-5-2021
The Solal technique is breathtaking, the Solal creativity is enrapturing, the inventiveness is all consuming, humour is never far away.
Jazz Views, 11-5-2021
Fragments of the whole are surveyed from multiple angles, each facet examined and revealed in different voicings and registers, altering perspective, colour and form. All magnificently placed because Solal is a master of time and space.
But, now aged ninety-three years, Solal has decided to retire while he is still ahead. The album is an elegant and idiosyncratic valedictory in which "Lover Man," "My Funny Valentine" and "Have You Met Miss Jones" are among the tunes given treatments as fresh as the day they left their composers' hands.
All About Jazz, 04-5-2021
Coming Yesterday feels like an important document. And it is salutary to be reminded of at least one of the places where Solal's unique and seemingly boundless creativity and capacity for surprise come from. As he has written in the sleeve note: “Great freedom requires a lot of work. I’ve done my share.
The Arts Desk, 29-4-2021
Coming Yesterday contains eight masterpieces by the French pianist
A glittering farewell to the concert stage ... Solal plays atonal, wild and free, full of irony and unpredictability - then again tenderly and with a mild wink. A tour de force, overwhelming, wide awake, old school and at the same time radically modern and forward thinking into a future of jazz…
NDR CD of the week, 23-4-2021
... On the one hand, his exploration of the themes of the standards moves more strongly in the rhythmic space, which then sounds completely unexpected. On the other hand, his far digressing improvisations aim at an examination of the harmonies, which leads to the fact that many titles do not sound like standards, but like his own songs ...
Jazz Fun, 13-4-2021
From Django Reinhardt in 1953 to Dave Liebman in 2020, Martial Solal has met them all. He represents the history of jazz on his own and gives it a recognizable personal touch.
But this concert, fortunately recorded by Radio France, has something special since it is a kind of farewell to the public : "When I walked into the stage on January 23, 2019, I did not know that I would decide not to play piano anymore after this concert.
... How can someone over 91 still play like that, so nimble in the hands and in the head, the right and the left as always equal, a waterfall of ideas, a gifted alienator of the known, a lifelong modernist who always helps himself to tradition? Solal has tried his hand at "Tea For Two," "Lover Man" or "My Funny Valentine" thousands of times, but they always sounded new, like pieces from his pen…