Jacky Terrasson performs at WBGO.
When Jacky Terrasson won the prestigious Thelonious Monk piano competition in 1993, he proceeded to lead one of the defining jazz piano trios of that decade. He's now approaching his mid-40s, typically a transitional period for many jazz musicians. As the name of Terrasson's new release suggests, Push hints at something of a surge. The new band has recharged Terrasson's music.
"I'm lucky to still be doing this," Terrasson says. "I realized, with this economy, it's become harder for young musicians who are starting today to get the kind of visibility and play that they deserve and they should get."
Paying Tribute To Michael Jackson
Terrasson recently recruited two twentysomethings, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams, for the new band. They recorded three songs at WBGO, fresh from a tour of France, Germany and Switzerland. They led with a medley of the popular jazz standard "Body and Soul" and elements of Michael Jackson's "Beat It." It's the opener for their live performances, and it arrived with a stroke of serendipity.
"We were about to start a week at Iridium Jazz Club in New York," Terrasson says. "We finished soundcheck, and the news hit: Michael Jackson had just died. Bummer. We go back to the venue, and I decided to open the set with this tribute. We usually opened with 'Body and Soul,' so we put this little tribute to Michael Jackson before that, and it worked. It was very spontaneous."
Making Sense Of Midlife
"My Church" is an original reflection with a metaphorical meaning.
" 'My Church' is a place where I like to go sit down at the piano and try to dig deep inside and find peace and try to make sense of this life, this midlife for me," Terrasson says. "It's this place at the piano where it feels a little religious; it feels deep. Like a thoughtful, spiritual place. And every time we play it, I try to get back to that zone and to that feeling."
For all the meditative religiosity and internal affirmation, Jacky Terrasson can still ring the piano with an inspired vigor. He gets a constant push from his bandmates on stage, as well as continued inspiration from home. "Gaux Girl" gets its appellation from the latter.
"That's a tune I wrote for my little girl, my daughter Margaux," Terrasson says. "She's very enthusiastic, a lot of fun, very smart. So this is just an impulsive, 'Gaux girl!' "
Push shows Jacky Terrasson the mid-career musician, an artist reaching an extra gear with a new band hitting its stride.
"Really, I'm just trying to keep doing it the best I can," Terrasson says. "I try to write more songs. That's become more important to me — to play my own material. It becomes something more personal with time."
Recorded April 6, 2010, at WBGO with producer and host Josh Jackson. Recorded by Josh Webb.