The Qobuz Standard
There are more than 130 recording sessions featuring this French pianist, although only a few in which he is credited as the leader. Thus the title of Real Me from 1970 may refer to something that has been held back in the many other contexts in which Persiani has been featured. A good deal of his work has been accompanying star soloists visiting France on tour over a period of nearly four decades beginning in the mid-'40s, so an artistic hammerlock could be understandable.
Speaking of wrestling holds, a label named Black and Blue documented much of the scene, adopting Persiani as a house pianist in a rhythm section that often featured drummer Oliver Jackson, nicknamed "Bops Junior." Jackson's hard swinging and effortless ballad float help mightily on tracks such as "Straight Life" and "What Am I Living For" respectively, the pianist sometimes sounding like part of revealing his true self involves spacing out.
The same cannot be said about "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," a spot-on play-through that makes a mockery of its title, or the pianist's original and very lovely "Gwendolyn," the latter concluding the collection of a dozen pieces. The CD reissue of this session added a few bonus tracks, allowing listeners an interesting chance to compare performances of the difficult "King Porter Stomp" of Jelly Roll Morton. Persiani would probably not win a match in ragtime -- at the same time it is always fun to hear a pianist take on this kind of material, even if it winds up wrestling them to the ground.
© Eugene Chadbourne /TiVo