Jacky Terrasson – Backstage at Iridium Jazz Club

Jacky Terrasson at Iridium Jazz Club, NYC, June 25, 2009.


Just three blocks north of Times Square in Manhattan, you’ll find the world-famous Iridium Jazz Club (51st Street and Broadway). Iridium is a great place to celebrate and support live music. If you’re in the City, unplug your earbuds and check out Iridium’s stellar lineup of upcoming concerts.

Iridium recently hosted the outstanding French pianist, Jacky Terrasson with Ben Williams on bass and Jamire Williams on drums. We thought it was pretty brilliant, and apparently, we were not alone (see New York Times Review)!

Sundancechannel.com: You’re a very international guy – and your playing really reflects that.

Jacky Terrasson: Yeah, well my background is… my mom’s from North Carolina – she grew up in Durham, and my father’s French. My mom’s black American and my father’s French French (laughs). I grew up near Paris, France – and I moved to New York City around 1990.

Sundancechannel.com: What or who prompted you to enter the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 1993?

Jacky Terrasson: Actually a friend of mine who was here at the first set. He was one of my first fans and he was at Bradley’s Jazz Club when I used to play there. He used to come to every set and he said, “You know, man, there’s this competition…” And I studied classical music for like eight years, and when that word came out of his mouth, “competition,” I was like “No, man, I’m not going there!” (laughs) You know, to me it was so part of the classical world. And he showed me some press about it and some articles about it and said, “This could really help you…” And I talked to other people and, finally, you know, I submitted a tape and I was accepted.

Sundancechannel.com: Did you realize beforehand what kind of a big deal it would be when you won?

Jacky Terrasson: No, absolutely not. I didn’t have any clue.

Sundancechannel.com: What kind of specific opportunities opened up for you immediately after you won the Monk Competition?

Jacky Terrasson: Well, before the competition, Tom Everett and Bruce Lundvall from Blue Note Records were coming to a lot of gigs. And so, everything kind of happened at the same time. And this guy, Richard Salters, a friend of mine said, “You should do [the competition] before you sign any kind of deal – you never know.” So what it did for me was it put me in a situation where, basically, there was not only Blue Note that was interested in me, but other labels and, you know, I was 25 years old or so and, well, everything helps. It created more buzz, more hype… more in the spotlight and, basically, it was a good position to be in.

Sundancechannel.com: What artists did you listen to growing up in France?

Jacky Terrasson: You know, I was so stuck, I was so limited – in a great way – but I was listening only to classical music and piano trios. I was listening to Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk. I loved, always loved Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, big Miles Davis fan, Bill Evans. And later, when I was 18 or so, I discovered Herbie (Hancock), Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett then later, Chick Corea.

But, I mean, during the whole teen age years, I was really not into… and I regret it in one way, because I realize there’s a lot of social – just normal growing up things that I was totally void to. I didn’t know anything about pop music or rock and roll, you know? All my friends, when I was in high school, were listening to AC DC and I was, like, “Arrgghhh” (laughs). It was great, but at the same time, it was funny because I just felt like I was on this little island listening to this other music.

Sundancechannel.com: You are so inventive and creative on the piano and get more mileage out of the instrument than a lot of others do – when did you first start experimenting with plucking the strings and playing the board as a hand drum?

Jacky Terrasson: You know, I just think of the instrument as something that has a lot to offer… and, uh, I’m not the first one who’s done it, you know, I mean, I’ve seen Herbie [Hancock] pluck strings, Keith Jarrett get inside the piano and do all kinds of crazy stuff… Cecil Taylor. I just like discovering sounds, you know – something that nobody’s done. So that’s my next thing – finding a new sound…

You know, a lot of people say the trio format is kind of limited because it’s been done for so many years now. My challenge is to find another expression with the same instruments – it’s wood, it’s metal, it’s skins – well, now it’s plastic (laughs) – but still very noble and primal. I like the idea of primal – primitive? primal? elements and the idea of expanding until that stuff, well, bursts!

Sundancechannel.com: What artists would we see on your iPod?

Jacky Terrasson: I have an iPod in my pocket right now! (laughs) A lot of stuff – a lot of jazz, a lot of classical music – some Beyoncé, some Tracy Chapman, a lot of Sting. Today I was listening a little to Michael Jackson, of course. [This concert and interview occurred on the day Michael Jackson died.] And I love ethnic music… some names that I can’t even pronounce, but, Indian music and African music.

Sundancechannel.com: What’s coming up for you in the next year?

Jacky Terrasson: Well, I just signed with Concord Records and we’re planning on recording this summer.

Sundancechannel.com: With the trio we saw tonight? (Ben Williams on bass and Jamire Williams on drums)

Jacky Terrasson: Yeah, this trio will be part of it, and I’m planning on having a few guests on it… just to do something different from the records I’ve been doing previously with Blue Note Records. So, I’m going to have a few guests and maybe it’s going to be more on the “push” side like tonight.

Sundancechannel.com: Any touring this summer?

Jacky Terrasson: I’m doing a few festivals in Europe in August and then I’m working on the album. The new album will probably be out February or March of 2010.

Learn More:

Jacky Terrasson Official Site

Iridium Jazz Club

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz