Jean-Michel Pilc Trio + 1 Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., March 1, 9 p.m. and Sat., March 2, 8 p.m. 2013

Both on his own and in his long-running trio with bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig, French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc has proved his technical virtuosity and improvisational dexterity, bringing a mutability reminiscent of free jazz to the hoariest of standards as well as to his fluid original tunes. On his 2011 trio album Threedom (Motema), the way he breathlessly breaks apart Monk’s “Think of One,” Bird’s “Confirmation,” and Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day” reminds me of my nephew with a themed Lego set: he disassembles it, ditches the instructions, and lets his imagination take over. Pilc’s building blocks are the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of jazz classics, and at his best, his considerable skills are so thoroughly subservient to his fizzy reinventions that it never sounds like he’s showing off. The Jean-Michel Pilc Trio + 1, which plays two shows in town this weekend, includes only two other players, bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Ross Pederson—the “+ 1” is the voice Pilc adds by whistling while he plays, sometimes adding a second, entirely independent melody. Jazz has had a handful of improvising whistlers, including Belgium’s Toots Thielemans and Chicago’s own Joel Brandon, and I’ve never cared for any of them; the only person I ever want to hear whistling is Alessandro Alessandroni. Based on what I’ve heard, I don’t like Pilc’s attempt either, but his piano playing is still great. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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