Michel Petrucciani

Michel Petrucciani was a French jazz pianist and composer. Michel was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, which is a genetic disease that causes brittle bones and, in his case, short stature.

In Michel’s early career his father and brother occasionally carried him, literally, because he could not walk far on his own unaided. In certain respects though he considered his disability an advantage as he got rid of distractions, like sports, that other boys tended to become involved in.

Petrucciani gave his first professional concert at the age of 13. At this point of his life, he was still quite fragile and had to be carried to and from the piano. His size meant that he required aids to reach the piano’s pedals, but his hands were average in length. This had its advantages, however. At the beginning of his career, Petrucciani’s manager would often smuggle him into hotel rooms in a suitcase in a bid to save money.

Michel distinguished himself most obviously from his primary inspiration in that he lacked Bill Evans’ cerebral approach to the piano. Petrucciani’s interest was primarily in simply playing; he spent little time reharmonizing or arranging.

Stylistically, Petrucciani is most frequently compared to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett for his lyricism and Oscar Peterson for his virtuosity. His playing was often quite dramatic; critics accuse him of over-indulgence and cheap showmanship; sometimes dismiss his music as being too accessible. Petrucciani was loose and playful in a rhythm section, and gave attention to a strong articulation of the melody. He sometimes paused at the peaks of his solo lines before descending again, as if in appreciation of his idea.

Listen to this track called “September Second”:

And also see him on a solo live performance from 1993:

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