Martial Solal



Biography

The legendary French composer, jazz pianist, and improviser Martial Solal was born on August 23, 1927 in Algiers, Algeria, to French parents. He was taught to play the piano by his mother, who sang opera. From the age of 15 he played with local bands as a pianist, clarinetist and saxophonist, training that helped him in his career as a big band composer and arranger. In 1950, Solal moved to Paris, Europe's jazz center. Soon he was playing regularly at the popular Club St-Germain and Blue Note club. For several years he performed and recorded with the best French jazz musicians and American soloists visiting Paris such as Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, and Sidney Bechet. In 1956, Solal fronted for the first time a big band with which he recorded his own compositions and arrangements. In 1968, he began a long association with alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. In 1963, the American impresario, promoter and pianist George Wein brought Solal to the Newport Festival with great fanfare in the press. Despite the tour's success, Solal has rarely visited the USA and remains relatively little known to Americans. In Europe, Solal has won many awards, including The 1999 JazzPar Prize. An international jazz piano competition has been established in Paris in his name. Since 1959 Solal has composed the scores for more than 40 films, including Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1959). His recent album, Dodecaband Plays Ellington (Dreyfus, Jan. 2001) has received high praise. Mr. Solal’s most recent appearance in Washington, D.C., was at the French Embassy in September 2001.

“One of the most memorable jazz concerts in town last year found piano virtuoso Marial Solal at the French Embassy…(his) contributions that night were often inspired-by turns soulful and sophisticated, subtle and striking.  (Mike Joyce, The Washington Post)

February 2003
Martial Solal