What drew you to record this project?
Well, two or three years ago, Steven Cerra approached
me and shared his desire to produce a CD with
my trio playing the music of Michel Petrucciani.
At first, I found it a little odd, since I thought
that the angle of a French pianist playing another
French pianist would be a little “corny”,
but as soon as I started listening back to Michel’s
music more carefully, I soon realized that this
project wouldn’t just be a major musical
endeavor, but a personal challenge of high end
musicality and sophistication. I started working
on the arrangements, trying to tie my own musical
sensitivity to Michel’s own, and I got excited
pretty quickly. Several things happened beyond
our control, and we lost our financing. The project
was then cancelled, and right at that time, Vic
Lewis, my English friend came up with the idea
of recording Jule Styne’s music and convinced
me to put it out under my own jazz label: WilderJazz.
Hence “Styne & Mine” my last trio
CD. This CD went up to number 3 on the national
jazz radio charts, and people went mad about it
(just read the reviews: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/christianjacob
) I was then excited to put out my next trio recording,
and went back to the idea of recording Michel
[Q2] Your last trio CD
was centered on the music of Jule Styne, and now
Petrucciani, don't you think that recording a
CD of music most people are unfamiliar with will
make it harder for you to connect with your audience?
Well, within an audience, people connect for
different reasons. Enjoying music only when you
already know the melody is a pretty limited way
of enjoying music. Of course, everybody relates
better to what he already knows, but music is
made up of elements everybody has heard before,
and if sometimes there comes an element never
heard before, it should be taken as a great gift.
In “Contradictions” I think people
will hear a musical essence that will draw them
to want to hear more. This is not some simplistic,
2nd grader type of music (which is how I categorize
today’s main stream music), but on the other
hand, this is in no way mysterious and inaccessible
music, the soul of this recording is very young
[Q3] I understand that
you guys had started working on Petrucciani’s
music a few years ago and then put the project
on hold until now. Since you have been able to
‘live with’ Michel’s tunes for
a couple of years, was this helpful to you when
it came time to record them?
When I compose or arrange something, I always
feel the time comes when I have to “sleep
on it”. I always have been aware of the
importance for the conscious mind to get into
a listening mode with the subconscious mind. So,
to me, this is the same principle on a larger
scale. I think it is a great thing. Nowadays,
time is such a luxury, that it is great when it
is given to you.
[Q4] What do you find that’s
different to your ears about Michel’s tunes;
what makes them interesting to play on?
I feel very close to Michel’s compositions;
to a point where I almost hear the spark that
started the whole writing process. A composition
usually starts with an initial hunch that develops
into an actual composition. The hunch being a
specific idea: a loop, a melodic tidbit, a harmonic
tension or succession that rocks your boat, an
improvisational springboard, or any basic idea
(melodic, harmonic or rhythmic) that attracts
Michel never used the same hunch twice. He was
a complete musician with a vast pool of creative
knowledge to draw from.
[Q5] Michel played the
tunes on this recording with a variety of rhythm
sections, but he never recorded all of them with
the same bassist and drummer. Do you think that
using the same rhythm section for all these compositions
creates a unifying presence in the way his music
Absolutely! Presenting any work with the same
group of musicians will always blend it. This
is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, it is
just a fact.
[Q6] Christian: did Michel’s
music evoke any kind of French or Gallic ‘sensibilities’
in you as you were playing them or, in other words,
strike a responsive cultural chord with you?
Maybe; I recognize the strike as being a musical
one. It is possible that my French upbringing
is part of it, but it would be more into my subconscious.
I don’t separate my own musical world into
categories, this is a whole for me, I just know
I feel close to it…
[Q7] How did the arrangements
for each of the selected Michel tunes come about?
Were any changes made to the original song structures,
if so, why?
I first chose the songs that were “closer”
to me, songs that I musically related to; then
I felt secure about modifying them (to a certain
extent). All modifications were made to power
my own communicating power on the piano. In music,
there is really no ownership (even though legal
music protection companies like BMI, ASCAP, etc.
make their business on the fact that it does).
Think of it as colors, who owns that special shade
of green? When I play, it is for my own enjoyment
first; I’d rather change a note if it augments
my joy than forbid myself to do it. I will forbid
myself to go somewhere if it takes away from the
main intention of the composition. In other word,
I allow myself to change what I believe would
make him turn his head, smile, and say: ahhhhh,
I love this!…
[Q8] Jazz critic Stephen
Cook has noted that “… Michel Petrucciani
weaves myriad textures, rhythms and styles …
producing work that sounds both complex and seamless.”
Is this how Michel’s music sounds to you?
I think this is a beautiful description. I think
that this describes pretty well what attracts
me: A mix of intense knowledge rolled back into
[Q9] Was there any track
in particular that you found the most challenging?
The point of this CD is to have “The Christian
Jacob Trio” play the music of Michel Petrucciani.
This means 3 individuals playing a composer. “Looking
Up” was definitely the most challenging,
the reason being that I listened to Michel’s
version the day before recording in studio. While
recording, I suddenly felt unsure; almost if suddenly
I was competing… it took a lot of takes
for me to exhaust myself and finally play it the
way Christian Jacob should play it…
Besides a greater familiarity with Michel’s
music and the trio’s interpretation of it,
what are you hoping your listeners relate to after
hearing this CD?
You know… That deep and intense sense of
joy you get when you hear music that you love.
That’s why I’m here playing, trying
to create it as much as I can, and I want everybody
to feel it as intensely as I do.
[Q11] How do you get to
the almost mystical point of knowing when something
you’ve recorded is “a take?”
Is it always easy to identify one recorded track
over another as the ‘best’ or ‘master’
Well, it always ends up being the overall feel
that counts. If the take grooves, builds up naturally
and ends with a feeling that a statement was made:
that is the take, there is no need to try another
one… Sometimes, my ego wants to try another
take, usually because I wish that my solo took
a different route, but this is purely personal
(like wishing you had said something with different
words). Every time this happens and I beg to try
another take (in order to regain control of my
solo) the new take never measures up to the first
one and I always end up choosing the first one.