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Listening Post: Myriad 3, the Complete Piano Music of Erik Satie

Jazz

Myriad 3, “Moons” (Alma). New jazz records by Myriad 3 are usually big news on Canadian jazz radio. Since Toronto jazz radio is the only jazz radio we regularly have here, that makes them big news here too, whether we like it or not. The reason for that is that the trio is sometimes thought to be the Canadian Bad Plus. A look at the fine print on this, its third and newest album, tells you that it was funded, in part, by the Canadian government and private Canadian radio too. It is, like The Bad Plus, an acoustic jazz/rock piano trio. What that means on this album is a lot of ostinati and subtly changing repeated figures from pianist Chris Donnelly, pedal points by bassist Dan Fortin and most of the free improvising in the group by drummer Ernesto Cervini. Cervini is good but is in no danger of being confused with Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams or Jeff “Tain” Watts. It all makes for decent acoustic jazz-rock for a generation addicted to simple rock rhythms but, overall, a notable lack of creative fire. The finale, called “Exhausted Clock,” sounds like what happens at the piano when the metronome runs down and is stored away. Two and a half stars out of four. (Jeff Simon)

Classical

Erik Satie, The Complete Solo Piano Music performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet with pianists Pascal Roge and Jean-Phillippe Collard (Decca, six discs). For those so inclined, the 150th birthday celebration of composer Erik Satie was on Tuesday. What is presented on this terrific box set is the complete solo piano music of Satie performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet along with a full disc of Pascal Roge and Jean-Phillippe Collard collaborating on his classic two-piano music, including the first Satie masterpiece everyone agreed on “Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear.” It was in the 1960’s, with the aid of expanding classical FM radio and the magnificent espousal of Satie by Italian pianist Aldo Ciccolini, that Satie was discovered for his solo piano pieces – the “Gymnopedies” (translate from the Greek word roots and they would be “barefoot pieces”) and “Gnossiennes” (women of Gnossos). The complete Satie piano music is vastly more complicated over six discs but, strictly speaking, his esthetic was among the most influentially radical in all of music and remains that way. It’s understandable if the cream of French pianists wanted to celebrate it on record from 2000-2003 as they did on the performances recorded here. Satie was crucial, a half century after he lived, to the music of John Cage. You can also hear his Rosicrucian piano music as a forerunner to the mystic minimalism of Arvo Part and Gorecki a century later. No purer avant-garde spirit ever existed in French music. But the complete piano music – full of surrealism and jokes in the titles – is vastly more varied than the gorgeous and elemental piano music that people usually fall in love with first i.e. the “Gymnopedies” and “Gnossiennes.” This is a great box of music whose importance is its initially resolute opposition of the very idea of musical importance. Four stars. (Jeff Simon)