picture of Michel Petrucciani
© Abaca
 

 
picture of Michel Petrucciani young Michel at the organ
 
Michel Petrucciani
Michel (*1962) came from an Italo-French family. He was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which is a genetic disease that causes brittle bones and, in his case, short stature.
 
At an early age, Michel saw Duke Ellington on television and wished to become a pianist like him. From the beginning, Michel had always been musical, reportedly humming Wes Montgomery solos by the time he learned to speak. He began learning classical piano at the age of four, and was making music with his family by the age of nine. The musician who would prove most influential to Michel was Bill Evans, whom he began listening to at around the age of ten. Michel's layered harmonies, lyrical style, and articulation of melody have always been linked most strongly to this early exposure to Evans.
 
Michel gave his first professional concert at the age of 13. At this point of his life, he was still quite fragile and had to be carried to and from the piano. His hands were average in length, but his size meant that he required aids to reach the piano's pedals. He felt he needed to travel to Paris to begin his musical career, so he made his first trip to Paris at the age of fifteen. There he played with Kenny Clarke in 1977 and Clark Terry in 1978. His breakthrough performance occurred at the Cliousclat jazz festival. Terry was missing a pianist, and when Michel was carried onto the stage, he thought it was a joke; Michel was not more than 90 cms tall. But he astounded Terry and the rest of the festival with his prodigious talent and virtuosity.
 
Michel travelled to the U.S. after his trip to Paris, he ended up in California in 1982, where he visited retired saxophonist Charles Lloyd. After hearing Michel play, Lloyd was so inspired that he agreed to tour with him. Petrucciani and Lloyd's tour of the West Coast of the United States was a huge success and they continued internationally. On 22 February 1985, with Michel cradled in his arms, Lloyd walked onto the stage at Town Hall in New York City and sat him on his piano stool for what would be a historic evening in jazz history: the filming of One Night with Blue Note.
 
Michel and Charles' performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was made into an album, and in 1982, they won the 1982 Prix d'Excellence. But Michel expressed mostly disdain and frustration at the awards he felt were being heaped upon him, believing that he was receiving so many at least in part because people believed he was going to die young.
 
Michel moved to New York City in 1984 and spent the rest of his life there. This was the most productive period of his career. He recorded with Wayne Shorter and Jim Hall, producing the trio album Power of Three. In 1986, Michel recorded a live album with Wayne Shorter and Jim Hall. He also played with diverse figures in the U.S. jazz scene including Dizzy Gillespie.
 
But he made a priority of recording solo piano also. He said: "I really believe a pianist is not complete until he's capable of playing by himself. I started doing solo concerts in February 1993, when I asked my agent to cancel my trio dates for a year in order to play nothing but solo recitals. I had a wonderful time playing alone, and discovering the piano and really studying every night. I felt like I was learning so much about the instrument and about communicating directly with an audience. So it was an incredible experience. I really loved doing that, and afterwards getting on stage with a group again and playing with other people was a piece of cake!"
 
Michel died from a pulmonary infection in 1999. He was interred in Le P&egrace;re Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, one tomb away from Frédéric Chopin.
 
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Discography
Music
Blue Note B1-92563
recorded 1989 in New York City/USA
Michel Petrucciani, piano, organ, synthesizer
Adam Holzman, synthesizer
Gil Goldstein, accordion
Romero Lubambo, guitar
Tom Swift, recorder
Anthony Jackson, bass
Chris Walker, bass
Andy McKee, bass
Eddie Gomez, bass
Lenny White, drums
Victor Jones, drums
Frank Colon, percussion
Tania Maria, vocals

 
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