When things get really right on the bandstand, an artist’s invention can make you shake you head in wonder: “how did he/she think of that?” And when the music is also marked by whimsy, those head-shakes can turn to chuckles. Last night at the Village Vanguard, pianist Martial Solal made me chuckle out loud seven times – that’s a damn good laughs-per-set ratio. He did so by allusion, placing snippets of other melodies into the tune he and bassist Francois Moutin were messing with. “I Got Rhythm” made room for a moment of “Caravan ” a two-note inflection in “I Can’t Get Started With You” summoned “Criss Cross,” etc. He did so by rhythmic upending. Call the octogenarian a one-man Naked City and get him a Tzadik contract: a joyous phrase would be sharply followed ponderous episode that was hooked to a giddy retort. From salon to whore house he moved through lots of turfs. His light touch and antsy demeanor conjured a confluence of John Lewis, Misha Mengelberg, and Count Basie. Dexterity and delivery were in the forefront, pure imagination was driving the action, and the chuckles just kept coming. He didn’t play “Anything Goes,” but indeed anything went. If you could use a laugh, it’s recommended that you stop in before the last set on Sunday night.
Larry Appelbaum interviews Solal (“Swing is a technique”).