Not long ago, I encountered the impressive French jazz / stride pianist Philippe Souplet on YouTube.
Here’s the evidence: his 2009 performance of MULE WALK:
Now, Philippe has come out with his first solo CD, and it’s delightful: PIANO STORIES: FAT LIONS, GENTLE DUKES, AND OTHER OLD FRIENDS — which should give you an idea of his musical range and light-hearted approach to the music.
On it, he explores compositions by Willie “the Lion” Smith, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Edgar Sampson, Arthur Schwartz, and of course James P. Johnson.
The CD benefits greatly from a wonderful piano, splendidly recorded, but Philippe’s approach to this material would come through in less ideal circumstances.
Although he is deeply respectful of the Stride tradition, he doesn’t treat the repertoire as a series of rigidly established classical compositions. He’s a graceful improviser, serving the music. He isn’t combative — he doesn’t try to overwhelm the music with speed and volume. His tempos are peaceful, giving the melodies time to breathe.
And Philippe is not constrained by some narrow definitions of musical history: there’s an elegant openness to his playing, with sideways glances at Dave McKenna and Hank Jones. It’s a varied CD that ranges from the pensive to the joyous.
The selections are I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / HERE COMES THE BAND / CHELSEA BRIDGE / THE MULE WALK / HONEY HUSH / ELLINGTON – STRAYHORN MEDLEY: Passion Flower – Mood Indigo – Prelude To A Kiss – Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / MORNING AIR / RETROSPECTION / IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING) / I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING / MELANCHOLIA / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’.
Philippe produced the CD himself: you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. for information about how to purchase a copy.