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Jacky Terrasson

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By the mid-’90s, pianist Jacky Terrasson was being hailed as one of the bright young lions on the traditional jazz scene. His self-titled 1995 debut for Blue Note Records drew high praise from all corners of the jazz world.

His feathery keyboard touch is coupled with a lot of power and passion, a complete understanding of the blues and improvisation, and Terrasson is also a gifted arranger, putting his own personal stamp on well known tunes. He’s been one of the jazz world’s most talked about piano player/composers since he captured everyone’s attention when he won the Thelonious Monk Competition in 1993.

Born in Berlin to a French mother and an American father, Terrasson’s distinctive piano style reflects his old and new influences. In his youth, he spent years studying and listening to recordings by Bud Powell, Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. He began playing piano at age five, and his parents were always playing classical music on the stereo. He began listening intently to Billie Holiday and Miles Davis records that belonged to his mother when he was 11, and at that point, he was hooked on playing jazz piano.

He studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston with many other new traditionalists as classmates, including people like Danilo Perez. After graduation, he spent a year jamming at clubs in Chicago and New York before hooking up with ensembles led by his mentors, including Arthur Taylor and Betty Carter. At a recording session, Terrasson met Carter. The vocalist told him she needed a pianist to begin a tour the next day, and he accepted, spending nearly a year on the road with her.

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