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Born in Algeria in 1927, French pianist Martial Solal ranks at the top of the European jazz pantheon. Trained as a classical pianist, he discovered jazz at the age of 12 and never looked back. An internationally acclaimed musician who has worked with the music’s “who’s who”, he has played and recorded at such hallowed jazz settings as the Newport Jazz Festival and New York’s Village Vanguard. Noted for his virtuosity, unique stylistic approach, and the originality of his compositions, Solal stands as one of the giants of the instrument.

Four Keys

Martial Solal pairs up with three acknowledged jazz masters. From his early work with pianist Lennie Tristano and participation in Miles Davis’ legendary ‘Birth of the Cool’ recordings, on through to work with the likes of Charlie Hayden, Brad Mehldau, and Bill Frisell, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz has remained at the forefront of jazz stylists. First gaining fame with the Billy Cobham/George Duke band, then with Miles Davis, guitarist John Scofield has woven his way through a myriad of styles and influenced a whole generation of players. Niels-Henning Pederson counts as one of Europe’s greatest bassists. This album affords a listen to the complex beauty of Solal as composer as well as player. Brain Stream has a Latin flair and fascinating Solal and Pederson solos, while Konitz and Scofield converge in a scintillating duo. There’s infectious impromptu play on Not Scheduled, and Grapes tastes of Dolphy and Monk as it leads into a relaxed yet challenging set of solos. Retro Active takes on the changes of ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ at a brisk pace, with solos that show past, present and future sometimes converge, and Energy foments freedom with some adventurous ensemble play. Konitz’s poignantly beautiful play starts off Satar as each musician takes an unaccompanied solo. The locked-in group improvisation on Four Keys opens the door to finely balanced musical freedom. An amazing album featuring an unusual grouping of jazz greats.