Jacky Terrasson, Ben Williams, Jamire Williams | Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Jacky Terrasson, Ben Williams, Jamire Williams Recommended Free All Ages Soundboard

When: Thu., Nov. 10, 6:30 p.m. 2011

French pianist Jacky Terrasson is hardly over the hill—he turns 45 later this month—but he sounds energized by the two young musicians, both in their 20s, who make up the rhythm section on the 2010 trio album Push (Concord). Explosive drummer Jamire Williams and bassist Ben Williams (no relation), who won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2009, keep the pianist on his toes, juggling all kinds of rhythms—postbop, hip-hop, funk—with voracious energy and breathtaking precision, and in the record's best moments the group pulls off daredevil shifts in time and groove. On an unlikely mashup of "Beat It" and "Body and Soul," they actually do the freer playing on the Michael Jackson half—Terrasson slowly teases out the melody, dropping tightly coiled trills over unmetered percussion, then slips into a style a bit like Keith Jarrett's before moving into the other song. The trio's treatment of Monk's "'Round Midnight" is more circumspect, but even in that case they ride the tune out on a nice tango rhythm. Unfortunately this adventurousness seems to have produced some lapses in taste: the relentlessly complex "Beat Bop" is marred by treacly-sounding piano and synth in high-octane unison lines that reek of bad fusion, and "Say Yeah," with its mix of wanly chanted vocals, whistling, Brazilian percussion, and harmonica, suffers from an airy ersatz tropical feel that makes my skin crawl. But for this rare local appearance the trio goes it alone, without the auxiliary musicians who enabled some of those missteps—and by now the group has two years of experience under its belt. —Peter Margasak

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