Firstly the title Symphony is a tad distracting because this is a solo piano album, not an orchestral work. It consists of 10 improvisations. If you didn't know that latter factor and had already begun listening you would assume the pieces are much worked upon compositions and not delivered in a spontaneous circumstance in the moment. Because they are and it's an easy mistake to make that proves the skill of a player like the Paris-born Pilc, now 62. Note ''free improv'' (say when Alexander Hawkins or Matthew Shipp approaches the discipline is an entirely different sound), as much about individualism as generic considerations. But staying with notions of symphony you can make the leap that a piano work can be like a symphony given a pianist's talent to create a world. And that is vaild here. On 'Not Falling This Time' you get notes towards a Gershwin like approach which is fitting given Gershwin knew better than most how to explode a tune into another vast and joyous universe. Pilc has amazing technique and is a maximalist improviser. And yet when he, as if tip toeing along on 'Understanding', goes into another dimension, on the oblique 'Just Get Up' or even best of all 'The Encounter' conjures stirring mood - the strength he exhibits so naturally is still evident. Recorded in Portugal in 2021 'Way to Go' is jazzier than some of the improvisations and finds Pilc chopping and changing his accents as he journeys through a passage that would not sound out of a place on a Michel Camilo album. Very much a pianist-as-concert-artist sort of affair that anyone into classical music would probably feel as at home with as anyone else there's a dazzling almost Art Tatum-like fluency on 'First Dance' and a motific beauty on 'Discovery' that takes the breath away. So the moral of the story: improvisation isn't all about wild abandon: it can be, as here, the outcome of a highly ordered mind not afraid to say ''I feel, therefore I am.''
Jean-Michel Pilc, photo: Axelle Du Rouret
Alive - 2022 review