Martial Solal at the Vanguard
Born in Algiers in 1927, Solal was classically trained but took to jazz early. He played with Django Reinhardt in the ‘40s, wrote the soundtrack for Godard’s Breathless, and served as pianist of choice for the caravan of American jazzmen trekking through Paris in the ‘50s and beyond. His music bears the influence of Bud Powell’s staggered cadences, Art Tatum’s fluent chromaticism, Thelonious Monk’s playful wit, Lennie Tristano’s analytic focus, and Errol Garner’s lyrical limber—but, as such an odd mix might suggest, the resulting sound is all his own. He plays mostly standards, breaking up the melody, whittling it down to its sparest essence, then embellishing each chorus with a dozen variations, but never losing his grip on the tempo. Like Monk or Sonny Rollins, he improvises not just on the chords of a song but also on its themes, the moods it evokes, or some random association. No verse is the same; all are riveting.
He plays through Sunday.