Tag Archives: Aaron Bridgers

“KALEIDOSTRIDE”: PHILIPPE SOUPLET AT THE PIANO

Pianist Philippe Souplet makes lovable music.  Here is what I wrote about the young man — born in 1967! — in 2010, complete with videos, and this is my review, that same year, of his first CD, PIANO STORIES.  Although he and I have never met in person, as they say in the boroughs, “We go WAY back.”

SOUPLET

It took about eight bars of Philippe’s new solo piano CD, KALEIDOSTRIDE, to charm me.  In fact, it had that rare and delightful apparent contradiction of effects: I felt both excited and relaxed.  I prescribe it for all disorders, emotional, nervous, or physical — and especially for those proud readers who say, “Disorders? Not me!”

Now you can stop reading and begin listening: here are extracts from the CD, to soothe the agitated, to elate the low, to educate the wise, to bring joy:

The excerpts are not identified visually, but if you visit the description beneath this video on YouTube, you will find all the necessary details.

What I find particularly delightful is Philippe’s deep understanding of what this kind of orchestral piano is and isn’t.  Yes, it is inherently athletic (try moving your left hand at a Waller tempo for four minutes, never mind about the keyboard or where it might land) but it need not be forceful or loud.  As flashy as virtuosic stride playing might be, its heart is not speed or density.  What Philippe understands and demonstrates is the winning combination of lightness, subtlety, and lyricism: sweet melodies superimposed over a magic carpet, never faltering, of intriguing harmonies and irrepressible rhythms.  Yes, he knows his Waller, his Tatum, his James P. — but he’s also listened hard to Wilson and more “modern” players: I hear Hank Jones as well as Donald Lambert, and that’s high praise.

Of the fourteen performances on this disc, three are “standards”: Strayhorn’s LOTUS BLOSSOM, James P. Johnson’s YOU CAN’T LOSE A BROKEN HEART, and Ellington’s COTTON TAIL.  The remainder — with humorous titles — are Philippe’s own, and rather than being improvisations on familiar chord structures, they are charming evocations of the sound and style of pianists he admires.  Not imitations, mind you — one Waller cliche after another, for instance — but evocations.  I heard some of this music for the first time without access to the notes, and I could say, “Wow, that Tatum-idea is beautifully executed,” or “That young man has been listening hard to Oscar Peterson.” The pianists evoked are monumental: Waller, the Lion, James P., Tatum, Ellington, but also Francois Rilhac, Herman Chittison, and Aaron Bridgers.  It’s a delightful recital, and beautifully recorded as well.

The CD is Philippe’s own project and you can order it by contacting him at psouplet@wanadoo.fr.  Each disc is 18 Euros plus shipping, which 3 Euros in France, 5 in EEC, 7 outside EEC — priority mail).  PayPal is “the easiest way.”

I hope many people are as impressed by M. Souplet: he deserves your attention.

May your happiness increase!

PHILIPPE SOUPLET STRIDES (AND MORE)

A friend recently sent a YouTube clip of a new stride pianist, someone I’d never heard before. 

So permit me to share the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Philippe Souplet:

Edgar Sampson’s IF DREAMS COME TRUE is one of the test pieces within the  genre, since those who know the idiom have James P. Johnson’s 1939 solo recording in their minds.  Here, Philippe does all the right things: his tempo is a breezy medium, but it stays steady (some less gifted players start fast and then accelerate), and the result deftly combines a homage to James P. with Philippe’s own variations.  

But Philippe has more to offer than simply reinventing the stride classics: here’s his respectful, moving version of LUSH LIFE, an unhurried reading of the theme (with quiet asides):

Here’s a smorgasbord of piano styles, all beautifully played  — MULE WALK, HONEY HUSH (for Fats), WHAT’S NEW?, and HERE COMES THE BAND (for the Lion):

Who is Philippe Souplet?

He was born in 1967 in Paris.  His father, a doctor and passionate jazz record collector, started Philippe’s musical education very early, even before Philippe began to study the piano in his teens.  Later, he met the African-American pianist, Aaron Bridgers, a former pupil of Tatum and Teddy Wilson, a close friend of Ellington and Strayhorn.  Bridgers became his mentor and and introduced him to an approach based on left hand tenths and rich harmonies. 

During the 1980’s in Paris, Philippe heard and was influenced by stride piano sensations François Rilhac and Louis Mazetier, and the great Joe Turner. 

Like his long-time friend Mazetier, a reknowned medical doctor, Philippe has a simultaneous full-time non-musical career, as a respected  mathematics professor at the University of Paris-Nord.  His solo CD will be released in September.  

He has his own YouTube channel, called “Philippe Souplet,” where you can admire his piano style and hear him in duet with the French jazz and gospel singer Sonya Pinçon. Since 2008, Philippe has also regularly worked with pianist Ludovic de Preissac in a program entitled “From Stride to Be-Bop.”  De Preissac’s influences are more modern-sounding but they share a passion for Fats Waller. 

Welcome, M. Souplet!