Live at the Museum
Release date: January 28, 2022
Label: Outside in Music

Celebrated pianist Mathis Picard presents Live at the Museum, a thrilling solo piano venture recorded live at The National Jazz Museum of Harlem. Recorded in January 2019, the album is a sonic journey through which Mathis explores the museum of his own life in music, honoring and spotlighting his roots in jazz, classical and electronic music. Through Picard’s own refined curatorial lens, Live at the Museum honors the works of the great classical and jazz composers that were so influential to Picard’s personal musical journey with daring and evocative interpretations of classic pieces, and an impressive array of Picard’s own compositions. Both outwardly expressive and inwardly introspective, Live at the Museum cements Picard’s stature as a truly incomparable, revered innovator of his generation. 

Picard’s first solo release offers a new lens through which to view an artist who so seamlessly merges stride, contemporary jazz, classical and electronic music stylings to create his own singular voice. The NYC-based French and Malagasy pianist’s classical training began as a toddler, when he was enrolled at the Suzuki Institute in Pittsburgh, and continued during his pre-teen years at a classical boarding school, Chethams School of Music in Manchester, England, which fostered his love and appreciation for classical composers Maurice Ravel and J.S Bach. However, it wasn’t long until the object of Picard’s fascination became stride piano upon first hearing Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller and Art Tatum. “I found support and belonging within the music of these composers,” Picard reflects. His musical upbringing continued internationally between his studies at the Conservatoire de Fontainebleau and the Centre De Musique De Didier Lockwood, both in France, then in Glasgow under Strathclyde University’s Director of Jazz, Gerri Rossi. As time went on, his comprehension of these challenging standards empowered Picard to explore a wider array of piano styles. After moving to the United States and continuing his collegiate musical path at the Juilliard School, he eventually began touring nationally with his own group ‘Mathis Sound Orchestra’ and shared stages with the likes of Ron Carter, Braxton Cook and Wynton Marsalis. Live at the Museum invites listeners to explore Picard’s early influences and inner musical world.

“I spend a lot of time on the road,” Picard notes, “…the endless ricochet between load-ins and sound checks, lobby calls and pit stops can create a mirage in which life seems to be happening around you, but without you. However, when I am able to find a piano tucked away in a rehearsal room or hotel lobby, I am able to find myself. I find it incredibly grounding to sit down, connect, and create. My personal practice gives me the opportunity to inspect my inner world as I feel it through the piano; and, from this inner world, I am able to share. This process of finding and sharing has kept me glued to music my whole life so that, whether I am connecting to the work of my predecessors or working out my own compositions, I discover joy and presence in spending countless hours at the piano.”

Live at the Museum captures a particularly vibrant evening of live music at the National Jazz Museum of Harlem in New York City. The event featured live painting and drawing, a dance area, face painting and an eager, attentive audience of listeners. Picard recalls that it was “quite the party!” Despite it being a frigid January night, Picard only remembers the heat in the room when he listens back. The album was recorded on location by sound engineer Todd Carter.

From the very first refrains of the fiery “The Creation of the World” by John Lewis, Picard’s hallmark sound is noticeable – a confluence of his inspirations, assembled with grace. “Cuttin Out” is a composition by Willie “The Lion” Smith, one of the kings of the Harlem Stride School. In these cutting sessions, pianists took turns experimenting with a song, altering it to the best of their creative and technical abilities, with the most brilliant version being declared winner. “Although the energy of winning has never been my goal with music, I love this communal practice as a way to show yourself, dig into your story, and share it with the world. Freedom and connection, not winning, is what attracted me to the music.”

Interlude pieces “Earthlude” and “Firelude” are inspired by the use of loops and sequencing within electronic music – another love of Picard’s. Ravel’s “Le Gibet” was introduced to Picard in his early school years. “The piece demanded a technical command that required so much work and guidance.” Picard adds, “There were harmonies within the music that I didn’t quite understand yet, but I kept it by my side. Years later, when I began to learn this music solely aurally, I finally found a real personal connection to the music and began to take liberties with the ideas within the composition. In this way, I attempt to continue the inner musical conversation that the composer would have intended.”

Continuing with the theme of honoring his predecessors, “Like Blue” is a composition dedicated to Thelonious Monk, while “Clouds” is dedicated to Duke Ellington. “Woodland Fantasy” draws inspiration from an album called The Lion & The Tiger which features the piano/drum duet of Willie “The Lion” Smith and Papa “Jo” Jones. This composition is played with the same instrumentation, featuring stunning interplay between Picard and drummer Savannah Harris.

Live at the Museum comes as Picard is fresh off the heels from his critically-acclaimed genre-bending debut EP World Unity which was released in 2020 (Outside In Music). World Unity put Picard on the map as “a fascinating name to follow in any context” (All About Jazz). Long awaited, Picard finally presents his first solo piano outing allowing his unbridled invention to be heard in a pared-down context – a celebration of his inimitable sound.

LANCE LIDDLE
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"An album that strides - pun intentional - comfortably 'twixt rent party and the unknown." Read this review here.

 

PAUL MEDRANO
BEST OF JAZZ
"In the music, you will discover a personal museum of tracks recorded in a museum, growing not into a physical flower but into something as alive and fresh as one." Read the complete review here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Listed in the January 2022 '10 Albums You Need to Know' list here.

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"Killer stuff from a cat that knows how to hold your attention all by himself." Read the full review here.

JIM HYNES
MAKING A SCENE
Read the complete review here.

MICHAEL TOLAND
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"..the skill and enthusiasm he exhibits here indicates little will be beyond his grasp." Read the full review here.

PATRICK DALLONGEVILLE
PARIS-MOVE
Read the complete, 4-star review in French here.

LANCE LIDDLE
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"An album that strides." Read the entire review here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"Mr. Picard is a gifted pianist with stellar classical training and a creative mind." Read the review here.

JOHN CHACONA
LET'S CALL THIS
"Picard is a fearsome technician, and not even the substandard piano and unflattering acoustic at the National Jazz Museum of Harlem could blunt the effect of his imagination and curiosity." Read the review here.

KEN CHEETHAM
JAZZVIEWS
"He's a true innovator." Complete review here.

TOM HAUGEN
TAKE EFFECT
"A very absorbing performance.." Read the review here.

SCOTT YANOW
DOWNBEAT
"Picard has brilliant classical technique and a vivid imagination.." Read the review here.

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