ON RECORD: Michel Plays Petrucciani
French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani was born in Orange, Vaucluse, France on December 28, 1962. At birth, he was diagnosed with genetic disease osteogenesis imperfecta, causing brittle bones and his infamously short stature. Still, he went on to become one of the most renown jazz pianists of his time, despite being in extreme and lifelong pain. He suffered hundreds of fractures over the course of his life. But noted in an that his disabilities set him apart in other ways, "sometimes I think someone upstairs saved me from being ordinary."
His first professional concert was at the age of 13. It's rumored that his manager saved money on hotels early on by hiding Petrucciani in a suitcase. At only 65 pounds and barely three-feet tall, Petrucciani became one of the 20th century's most notable jazz pianist. Using a full grand piano, with a special predilection for the loudest piano pedal, Petrucciani stunned the world with his notes. Petrucciani knew his life would be limited and thus made up for it with acute overindulgence whenever possible. He once told his manager, "I want to have at least five women at once, I want to make a million dollars in one night."
"I'm a brat," he said. "My philosophy is to have a really good time and never let anything stop me from doing what I want to do. It's like driving a car, waiting for an accident. That's no way to drive a car. If you have an accident, you have an accident—c'est la vie." Just a week before he passed away at the age of 36 from pulmonary infection, he celebrated the new year all night with friends.
Compared to such virtuosos as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson, he played loose on the rhythm, with attention to the melody. Wayne Shorter summed up Petrucciani like this:
"There's a lot of people walking around, full-grown and so-called normal—they have everything that they were born with at the right leg length, arm length, and stuff like that. They're symmetrical in every way, but they live their lives like they are armless, legless, brainless, and they live their life with blame. I never heard Michel complain about anything. Michel didn't look in the mirror and complain about what he saw. Michel was a great musician—a great musician—and great, ultimately, because he was a great human being because he had the ability to feel and give to others of that feeling, and he gave to others through his music."
Available in-store now: Michel Play's Petrucciani available for $30. The Michel Petrucciani Trio Pianoism, $15.