It’s hard not to hear a hint of mischief, or at least gleeful rib-poking, in recent Jacky Terrasson releases and Take This, his new album on the re-activated Impulse! label is no exception.
A handful of Terrasson originals are laced through a typically eclectic mix of covers ranging from recent pop hits (Gotye’s Somebody that I used to Know), The Beatles (Come Together), jazz staples (Un Poco Loco, Blue in Green and two takes of Take 5) and a French 50’s hit (Maladie d’amour). The vintage or history of a tune is no guide to its likely treatment and a pot pourri of Afro – Caribbean or Latin grooves, hip-hop or blistering bop is deployed to re-invent them, not infrequently all within one arrangement. There’s a fair bit of beat boxing too either from the leader himself or vocalist Sly Johnson.
A consistent thread is of African and Cuban rhythms, driven by the drumming of Lukmil Perez and Malian percussionist Adama Diarra buoying Terrasson’s unfailingly exuberant playing. Bud Powell’s Un Poco Loco is taken at a blistering tempo with a samba groove. Take 5 take 1 is an extended joust between rousing percussion and piano before dissolving into a liquidly propulsive swing. An original, Dance, is a duo take between piano and percussion that does what is says on the tin with a bravura workout on a simple calypso like melody. Another original, November stays with the Caribbean vibe, a breezy attractive melody giving a platform for the pianist’s spiralling, divergent lyricism. Other moods flavour the carnival atmosphere. Take 5 take 2 is taken at chill out speed, Burniss Travis’ bass sometimes hinting at dub and Sly Johnson’s vocal sketching fragments of the melody, weaving around the squawking Rhodes. A gorgeous, more or less straight reading of Blue in Green is at an achingly slow tempo worthy of Shirley Horn and reminds us that Jacky Terrasson has a sublime sense of space. His band work with him to let it swell and draw the listener in. It’s a trick they repeat on Letting Go, the hymn like original that ends the set, a simple melody repeated and tastefully decorated by this time, a quietly bubbling Fender Rhodes.
With a recording career stretching back twenty years that includes over a decade on Blue Note, Take This confirms Terrasson’s infectious and divergent imagination is undimmed and his playing as a prodigious as ever. The stylistic twists and turns may be a little dizzying at times but the prospect of a live show is mouth-watering.