Featuring a buoyant blend of standards culled from the Jazz and Great American songbooks, the album brims with a kinetic combination of swagger and smarts. It grooves like nobody's business, while simultaneously showcasing Petrescu's deft musical command. It truly is a jazz album for the new millennium.
Born into a large musical family in Bucharest, Romania in 1970, Petrescu started his musical studies at the age of four. He studied at classical and jazz conservatories in Romania and Sweden, eventually enrolling at the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. This cunning combination of conservatory training and jazz-inspired abandon is what gives Live at the Jazz Standard its fervent musical flair. Petrescu imbues each of the album's seven tracks with both reverence and renegade. On the set opener "Cakewalk," Petrescu sets fire to the piano keys, channeling the legendary Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson's ground shaking groove. Other standout album cuts include a velvet-tinged take on the Rodgers and Hart classic "My Romance," followed by a pitch-perfect reading of the Bill Evans and Miles Davis standard "Blue In Green." On these tracks, Petrescu pays heartfelt homage to another of his musical mentors, the seminal pianist Bill Evans. "Bill Evans was the one pianist that truly made me understand how to navigate the language of jazz piano," he says. Petrescu poignantly captures Evans' mercurial musical personality, demonstrating both a reckless sense of swing and a hushed, lyrical romanticism. Petrescu proves he is truly at home across the musical and dynamic divide.
Petrescu shifts gears on the Peterson-penned "Blues Etude," then digs even deeper on a riveting romp through Ferde Grofé's "On The Trail," where he showers listeners with a seemingly endless torrent of notes in all directions. He closes the set out with an aural one-two punch - a celebration of ensemble interplay on the bluesy "Yours Is My Heart Alone," followed by a dazzling, 'no-holds barred' solo reading of "Indiana," where he combines church pew grace with two-handed tenacity, putting to rest any possible doubts as to his eventual place in the jazz piano pantheon.
Produced by Resonance Records founder and President George Klabin, Live at The Jazz Standard skillfully marries the electric excitement of live performance, with the fine-tuned finesse usually reserved only for the recording studio. It's a virtual front row seat to hear Petrescu's pianistic prowess, backed by the elastic accompaniment of guitarist, (and fellow label mate) Andreas Öberg, bassist David Finck and drummer Mark McLean. The album was recorded by Aaron Nevezie at New York's famed Jazz Standard, and mixed by producer Klabin himself.
Marian Petrescu made his Resonance Records debut on the Grammy Award-winning 2009 CDResonance Big Band Pays Tribute to Oscar Peterson. "When I was eight years-old, I heard Oscar Peterson on TV," Petrescu says. "I was so impressed, and at once I knew: This is what I want. This is what I will try to do. And I had to try very hard, because Oscar had that unbelievable musical level. It was not only his incredible technique, but the way he thought and handled this beautiful instrument." It's obvious from Petrescu's impassioned playing on both that album, and his latest release, that the late jazz piano giant made an indelible impression on him. Peterson's spirited swing is very much an integral part of Peterescu's playing.
A firm believer in the power of music education, Petrescu is also a renowned educator himself, teaching both classical and jazz to students at his own music school in Finland. "All classical work is good for jazz musicians," Petrescu says. "I teach my students classical and jazz, and see very big possibilities for them to be great players one day." This dynamic duality of education and performance experience sets Petrescu's piano work apart. His skills are boundless, as is his continued quest for musical excellence. Petrescu's improvised lines ring-out with a pinpoint sense of precision, so much so that famed French pianist and mentor Martial Solal calls Petrescu "the Horowitz of Jazz Piano." The comparison is not lost on Petrescu, who replies modestly, "Horowitz is an absolutely phenomenal player. I was very happy to be compared with him."
In December of 2009, Petrescu also appeared on NPR's famed Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz program, playing tracks from the new album, as well as other storied songs from the jazz piano liturgy. After hearing his tenacious take on the dizzyingly difficult Oscar Peterson classic 'A Little Jazz Exercise," guest host, (and renowned pianist herself), Renee Rosnes remarked, "That was fantastic! You certainly have the fingers to play it!"
Marian Petrescu's Live at the Jazz Standard stands as proof positive that the state of jazz piano is alive and thriving in the year 2010. A testament to the true universality of the jazz experience, it deftly demonstrates that it doesn't matter where you come from, as long as you can swing like your life depends on it. And swing Petrescu does, with a vengeance!