Primary Instrument: Piano
Born in 1960 in Paris, self-taught, Jean-Michel Pilc has played with some of the best American and European jazz musicians: 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.
While living in Europe, Jean-Michel toured in forty countries and participated in more than a dozen recordings, as well as many film scores.
Jean-Michel's desire to expand his musical experience brought him to New York City in 1995. There, he formed a trio with François Moutin (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums). Soon, they were performing in most jazz venues in NYC, including: Blue Note, Birdland, Knitting Factory and Sweet Basil.
They recorded a one week engagement at Sweet Basil and, in 2000, released 2 CDs Jean-Michel Pilc Trio - Together - Live at Sweet Basil, NYC - Vol. 1 & 2 (A-Records) which have received an exceptional critical acclaim in the US and in Europe. Then Pilc signed a multirecord deal with Dreyfus Jazz. Pilc's first album for Dreyfus, Welcome Home (featuring the same trio), was released beginning of 2002 and got rave reviews from the press, lots of airplay as well as high sales figures.
The Jean-Michel Pilc Trio quickly acquired a brilliant reputation on the international scene. In 2002 alone, they did a 5 week tour for the release of Welcome Home, followed by a 4 week fall tour of 7 European countries (including the Rising Stars Tour in Germany, Austria & Switzerland). They have recently performed in numerous festivals & venues around the world (NYC, Philly, DC, Chicago, Boston, Montreal, North Sea, Tokyo, Juan, Marciac, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK, Italy, Ireland, etc...).
A recent Chicago engagement inspired Neil Tesser to write: Pilc's playing reveals a roaring fire that all but consumes the cosmopolitan sheen stereotypical of European music.... he creates an admirable trialogue with his band mates (bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig), that represents another stage in the evolution of the interplay brought to piano jazz by Bill Evans. The Chicago Tribune's Howard Reich found that Pilc took his place among the most accomplished and stylistically daring jazz pianists working today. And Eric Brace wrote in the Washington Post that: His densely harmonic reinventions of standards you thought you knew clearly shows a musical genius at work.
Pilc's next album for Dreyfus, Cardinal Points was released in 2003 and received extraordinary reviews: JazzTimes said it should be studied in every music school in the galaxy... choosing the CD as one of Top 50 Picks for Critics Picks 2003; and a four Star Hot Box review in Down Beat said it's ...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
Cardinal Points features Jean-Michel's extended work Trio Sonata, created with generous support from Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Program, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Jean-Michel also got several grants from Meet the Composer, as well as the prestigious Django Reinhardt Prize from the French Jazz Academy (in 2000).
In 2004, Jean-Michel released his first solo album, Follow Me (Dreyfus), which got excellent reviews in DownBeat, JazzTimes, Jazziz, Chicago Tribune etc. 2004 has been an eventful year for Jean-Michel in terms of press articles (Associated Press, LA Times...) and radio features (WNYC, KCSM, WMAC...).
In the same year 2004, Jean-Michel has been intensively touring worldwide: US (incl. Monterey Jazz Festival + 10 day West Coast Tour), Europe (incl. Spain, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium), North Africa, Jamaica... performing solo and with his trio, and also teaching clinics and masterclasses.
Jean-Michel and his New Trio have been recorded Live at Iridium, NYC, in 2004. The album has been released on Dreyfus in October 2005, generating lots of press, radio coverage and concerts, including a return engagement at Iridium and an evening performance at IAJE Conference, NYC, in January 2006.
In the same year 2006, Jean-Michel has been appointed jazz piano teacher at NYU (New York University).
As a sideman, Jean-Michel has recently played and recorded with drummer Ari Hoenig (The Painter, Smalls Records - Inversations, Dreyfus), vocalists Elisabeth Kontomanou (The Midnight Sun, Nocturne) and J-D Walter, bassist/vocalist Richard Bona (Scenes from my life, Sony/Columbia), soprano saxist Sam Newsome (latest Palmetto release), and altist Rosario Giuliani (More Than Ever, Dreyfus).
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... Pilc is a player with a future, one whose impressive work deserves far wider exposure --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)