Pictures (1977) is an intriguing offshoot of drummer Jack DeJohnette's work with guitarist John Abercrombie in the Gateway Trio and other groups. A series of lightly colored aural collages that also feature DeJohnette on organ and piano with Abercrombie playing electric and acoustic, it conjures spare, plaintive moods without ever seeming static or New Age-y. The styles vary, ranging from Spanish folk to lyrical fusion to splintered string effects reminiscent of experimental British guitar great Derek Bailey. DeJohnette, who has recorded on the piano in a more straightforward context to less satisfying effect, succeeds in making us see as well as hear his compositions.
Saint-Saens’s Etudes offer an intricate and scintillating panoply of the French school of technique (the basis and prophecy of what Jean-Philippe Collard so mischievously called Marguerite Long’s ‘diggy-diggy-dee’ school of piano playing). Yet as Piers Lane tells us in his alternately wry and delightful accompanying essay (obligatory reading for all lovers of French pianism), they can be as evocative (‘Les cloches de las Palmas’) as they are finger-twisting (‘En forme de valse’, to name but one). The left-hand Etudes, too, given their self-imposed limitation, are a fragile and poetic surprise. In other words Saint-Saens’s Etudes are more comprehensive than their equivalents by, say, Moszkowski or Lazare Levey (superbly recorded by Ilana Vered on Connoisseur Society and Danielle Laval on French EMI, respectively – neither issued in the UK).