Photo © Steve Sussman, SussmanPhotography.com
Born in 1960 in Paris, and now an American citizen, self-taught Jean-Michel Pilc has performed with numerous giants in the music field such as: Roy Haynes, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Jean Toussaint, Rick Margitza, Martial Solal, Michel Portal, Daniel Humair, Marcus Miller, Kenny Garrett, Lenny White, Chris Potter, John Abercrombie, Mingus Dynasty & Big Band, Lew Soloff and Richard Bona. He has also worked with Harry Belafonte, as his musical director and pianist.
Jean-Michel Pilc moved to New York City in 1995. There, he formed a trio with François Moutin (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums). They recorded a one-week engagement at the legendary jazz club Sweet Basil and, in 2000, released two CDs: Jean-Michel Pilc Trio - Together - Live at Sweet Basil, NYC - Vol. 1 & 2 (A- Records).
Pilc then signed a record deal with Dreyfus Jazz. Pilc's first album for Dreyfus, Welcome Home (featuring the same trio), was released in 2002.
Pilc's next recording for Dreyfus, Cardinal Points, was released the following year. It featured Jean-Michel's extended work Trio Sonata, which was created with generous support from Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Program, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
In 2004, Jean- Michel released his first solo album, Follow Me (Dreyfus). Jean-Michel Pilc then went back to trio format to record Live at Iridium, NYC, in 2004, New Dreams in 2006,and True Story in 2009, all three for Dreyfus Jazz.
Pilc’s next two albums were both released in 2011 on the Motema label to great critical acclaim: “Essential”, a live solo piano recording, and “Threedom”, featuring his legendary trio with François Moutin & Ari Hoenig, which has re-formed in 2010 under the collective name Pilc Moutin Hoenig.
There is also a documentary out by John McCormick about Jean-Michel titled “Jean-Michel Pilc – A Portrait” which was released in the US in 2009.
In 2009 Pilc received his second New Works: Creation and Presentation Grant from Chamber Music America. His new project has been the writing and performance of “Modern Lights” – a composition reflecting Charlie Chaplin’s work, and the inspiration Pilc has gained from his movies. The project was premiered at the Caramoor Jazz Festival in August 2009.
Since 2006, he is a NYU Steinhardt faculty member. There, he is giving private lessons (piano and other instruments), ensemble classes and improvisation workshops. He was also co-director of NYU Summer Jazz Improv Workshop in 2010. Jean-Michel is also teaching for the New School in NYC, as well as privately.
Pilc has recently released a book, "It's About Music - The Art and Heart of Improvisation" (Glen Lyon Books) and an educational video for all instruments, "True Jazz Improvisation" (JazzHeaven). Another video about piano playing and practicing is in the works. More info on Educator Page.
"Jean-Michel Pilc Trio + 1", his latest project, features his virtuoso piano playing and whistling (documented on a solo piano & whistle track in the CD “Christmas from the Blue Note” released in 2010 on the "Half Note" label). It will also be the band featured on his next album for Motema.
In 2013, Jean-Michel has been granted a Fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, in the Music Composition category. The project is an octet, "New Big One", featuring all new, original music.
"His densely harmonic reinventions of standards you thought you knew clearly shows a musical genius at work."
Eric Brace, The Washington Post
"A dazzlingly inventive pianist."
Nate Chinen, The New York Times
"Jean-Michel Pilc belongs right in the front row."
John Fordham, Guardian Unlimited (UK, **** review)
“One of the astounding jazz piano trios of the past decade.”
Don Williamson, Jazz Review
"Mr Pilc seems to have dropped from the sky fully formed, with technique and his ideas in place. He is a physical and densely harmonic player, a splashy stunner who also has a Rubik's-cube mind for chord substitutions."
Ben Ratliff, New York Times
"...visual art references come to mind: Cubist renderings of melody in which the original is reshaped into a completely different visual perspective; the shimmering opaqueness of Impressionism in some of Pilc's lush harmonies..."
Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
"Follow Me" stands a major summation of Pilc's keyboard art, which has no counterparts. Pilc ranks among today's titans of the instrument... there's more to his art than the speed, precision and power of his 10 phenomenal fingers."
Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune(2004 10 best jazz CDs)
"I am absolutely stunned by the work of pianist Jean-Michel Pilc... The rhythm section sizzles under (his) leadership."
Bob Dorough, vocalist.
"...make no mistake about it, to his credit, Mr. Pilc is very unique... I would say that this trio starts at Mars, and then goes from there. Don't expect anything resembling conventional interpretations. This is fascinating and rewarding music..."
Rick Helzer, Jazz Improv
"The big discovery in the acoustic field was Jean-Michel Pilc. His sound is majestic, his statements urging. Supported by an equally strong rhythm section it didn't take him much effort to get Carel-Willinck Hall steaming..."
NRC Handelsblad, reporting on a North Sea Jazz Festival appearance.
"While never dry or abstract, Pilc is a model for playing a little to say a lot."
Mark Keresman, Jazziz
"should be studied in every music school in the galaxy..."
Harvey Siders, Jazz Times +Top 50 Picks for Critics Picks 2003
"...ridiculously well-balanced, and trading in the kind of grace that still has the power to shake a room. Keith Jarrett found something similar... Pilc's nudging it a bit further down the line."
Down Beat, four Star Hot Box review
As a leader or co-leader:
Pilc Moutin Hoenig: Threedom
Jean-Michel Pilc: Essential
Jean-Michel Pilc: True Story
(2009, Dreyfus Jazz)
Jean-Michel Pilc: New Dreams
(2007, Dreyfus Jazz)
Jean-Michel Pilc: Live at Iridium
(2005, Dreyfus Jazz)
Jean-Michel Pilc: Follow Me
(2004, Dreyfus Jazz)
Jean-Michel Pilc: Cardinal Points
(2003, Dreyfus Jazz)
Jean-Michel Pilc Trio: Welcome Home
(2002, Dreyfus Jazz)
Jean-Michel Pilc / Hein Van De Geyn Duo:
The Long Journey
Jean-Michel Pilc Trio: Together
Live at Sweet Basil, Volume 1 & 2
Jean-Michel Pilc: Big One
for 13 Piece Band
(1993, EMP/Harmonia Mundi)
Jean-Michel Pilc Trio: Funambule
(1989, Blue Line)
As a sideman:
Richard Bona: Ten Shades of Blues
Mads Vinding: Open Minds
Ari Hoenig: Inversations
(2006, Dreyfus Jazz)
Rosario Giuliani: More than ever
(2004, Dreyfus Jazz)
Elisabeth Kontomanou: Midnight Sun
(2004, Nocturne Records)
Rick Margitza: Rue des Voleurs
(2004, Nocturne Records)
Ari Hoenig: The Painter
(2004, Smalls Records)
Sam Newsome and Global Unity
Elisabeth Kontomanou: Hands and Incantation
(Duo, 2000, Steeplechase)
Richard Bona: Scenes from My Life
(1999, Sony / Columbia)
Elisabeth Kontomanou: Embrace
J.D. Walter: Sirens in the C-House
Jean Toussaint: Life I Want
(1995, World Circuit)
Aldo Romano: Prosodie
Andre Ceccarelli: From The Heart
(1993, EMP/Harmonia Mundi)
Martial Solal/Eric Le Lann:
Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet
(with strings, 1989, Musidisc)