Tag Archives: Philippe Souplet

“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!

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SONG STYLISTS: SONYA PINCON, CHRIS PEETERS, LYNN STEIN

One of the many pleasures of JAZZ LIVES is that I find about artists I would ordinarily never have known about.  Here are three singers who might be new to you, whose work will please you.  Each one is a strong individual stylist: no repeater pencils here.  And since some of my metaphorical way of looking at the world finds food-analogies everywhere, if you think of the three singers below as very sharply flavored cuisines, you wouldn’t be far off.

I first encountered SONYA PINÇON on YouTube — singing as part of a group led by her husband, the fine swing pianist Philippe Souplet.  She has a new CD out, IN THE MOOD FOR DUKE, where she’s accompanied by Souplet, Patrick Stanislawski, string bass; Joel Toussaint, drums.  I was at first struck by the focused ease of her voice, evoking any number of fine singers but not imitating anyone.  The repertoire is tried-and-true Ellington / Strayhorn, but it certainly sounds lively rather than overfamiliar.  (I have my usual problems with the lyrics added after the fact, but Sonya doesn’t take it all too seriously, as if she were singing Sondheim or Hart, and husband Philippe strides splendidly and in a delightfully understated way.)  They perform — live — DUKE’S PLACE / DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM / SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR / PRELUDE TO A KISS / CARAVAN / I AIN’T GOT NOTHING BUT THE BLUES / SATIN DOLL / SOPHISTICATED LADY / JUST SQUEEZE ME / IT DON’T MEAN A THING / DAY DREAM.

Here’s a fourteen-minute YouTube preview from the CD: .  Visit http://www.sonyapincon.com for more information.  To order the CD, email Sonya at sonya.jazz@yahoo.fr

If I heard CHRIS PEETERS singing from another room — on the radio or her new CD, that my reaction would be, “Wow!  Who is that?”  And then when I heard her own blues — which has the refrain, “Well, a little strange is good,” I knew the amused and amusing souce of her appeal.  It seems as if her world is charmingly atilt . . . perhaps ten degrees off what the world calls “level.”  About half of her debut CD is devoted to her own compositions, which are surprisingly refreshing — her own versions of hip Europop, the theme songs for films that we might never see, music that we would keep humming to ourselves.  Here’s that BLUES: 

Chris has the benefit of imaginative and often surprising backing on her CD — including Dirk van der Linden; piano, organ, vocal, Vincent Koning, guitar, vocal; Jos Machtel, string bass; Rene Winter, drums, percussion, vocal; David Lukacs, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Joep Peeters, vibraphone; Ellister van der Molen, trumpet; Dennis Kolen, vocal.  She is one of the few singers who can take on the Billie Holiday repertoire without being swallowed up by it — hear her YOU LET ME DOWN as a funeral march with a swinging pulse.  The songs are NOT THE FIRST TIME / BAR FLY / PETITE DANSEUSE DE QUATORZE ANS / MY MAN / CHRIS’ BLUES / SUIT / YOU LET ME DOWN / OH, LOOK AT ME NOW / ONLY ALONE / IT’S LOVE / THE SPINACH SONG (I DIDN’T LIKE IT THE FIRST TIME) / LA VALSE DES LILAS / HALLELUJAH, I LOVE HIM SO.  Find out more here

So far, LYNN STEIN doesn’t have a glossy YouTube video (more about that later).  But she is the only singer of this trio that I’ve had the good fortune to hear live, and her new CD shows off what she can do — and more — in the best way.  Although her new CD, SOFTLY, is brief, she shows off a variety of approaches in six compact performances: from risk-taking to carefully evocative to genre-bending (a version of I’LL BE AROUND that is tough, resilient rather than maudlin).  Her singing can be coy, ironic, sweeping, and rich.  And on the CD she has splendid musical partners: Jon Burr, string bass; John Hart, guitar; Matt Ray, piano; Warren Vache, cornet (on I’LL BE AROUND).  Living in New York, I have the opportunity to hear Lynn and Jon often — and the best part is that Jonathan Schwartz is playing this CD on the radio: always a sign of great things to come.  The songs are SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE / ALONE TOGETHER / ONLY TRUST YOUR HEART / I’LL BE AROUND / WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO / MY FOOLISH HEART.  Lynn’s singing sounds simple, but it isn’t . . . close listening reveals a great deal.

About the video!  Here’s Lynn in September 2011 at Jazz at Chautauqua, telling us that everything was fine but it’s even better now — I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT — with Jon on bass, Howard Alden, guitar; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Pete Siers, drums.  I admire the performance; I was there; I held the camera:

Sing out, sisters!

PHILIPPE SOUPLET’S “PIANO STORIES”

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 psouplet@wanadoo.fr. for information about how to purchase a copy.

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!