Fuller Up, The Dead Musician Directory
Michel Petrucciani
Michel Petrucciani
Jan. 6, 1999                 Pulmonary Infection
Age 36

Michel Petrucciani, Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 36


               NEW YORK -- Michel Petrucciani, a French jazz pianist and composer with an international following whose keyboard virtuosity earned him comparisons to Art Tatum and Bill Evans, died Wednesday at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. He was 36 and lived in Manhattan.  

          The cause was a pulmonary infection, said a representative of his French record company, Francis Dreyfus Music.  

          Petrucciani was a national hero in France, and his records were best sellers in Europe. French President Jacques Chirac was among the many who paid tribute to him Wednesday, praising his ability to "renew jazz, giving himself up to his art with passion, courage and musical genius." He called him an "example for everyone."  

          The career of Petrucciani, who was considered one of the great romantics of the jazz piano, lourished in spite of a severe physical disability. The pianist was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as "glass bones," a disease that stunted his growth (he was only three feet tall and weighed barely 50 pounds) and weakened his bones. Petrucciani had to be carried onto the stage, and he used a special attachment to work the sustaining pedal of the piano.  

          The ailment didn't affect his hands, however, and he played with a seemingly inexhaustible vigor and enthusiasm.  

          Petrucciani was born to Italian parents in Montpellier, France. His family was musical, and as a child he played the drums in a band with his father, Tony, a guitarist, and his brother Louis, a bassist. After studying classical music for eight years, he turned to jazz full time because he loved to improvise and wanted to write his own music.  

          He began his professional career when he was 15, playing for the drummer and vibraphonist Kenny Clarke.  

          Moving to Paris, he recorded his first album at 17, and he was appearing regularly at European jazz festivals while still a teen-ager. After a visit to New York he toured France in a duo with the saxophonist Lee Konitz, with whom he recorded an album of duets.  

          While in California in 1981, Petrucciani was discovered by the saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who made him a member of his quartet. They toured Europe and recorded an album, "Montreux '82." One of his most acclaimed early recordings, "100 Hearts" (Concord), was an album of solos.  

          Between 1986 and 1994, he made seven albums for Blue Note Records, including "Power of Three" (with Wayne Shorter and Jim Hall), and an acclaimed album of original songs, "Michel Plays Petrucciani" (Blue Note).  

          In 1994 he was made a knight of the Legion of Honor in Paris.  

          For all the comparisons to Bill Evans, Petrucciani had found his own style, which was more aggressive, fuller and sunnier than that of his idol and incorporated secondary influences as disparate as McCoy Tyner and Debussy.  

          A marriage to Gilda Butta, a pianist, ended in divorce.  

          He is survived by his companion, Isabelle, his publicist said, and by a son, Alexandre, and a stepson, Rachid Roperch, both of Paris, from a previous relationship.  

          At the time of his death, he was hoping to set up an international jazz school in France.  

          "It's my life's work," he said. "Jazz is dying out." 

Jazz Central Station
  Pianist Michel Petrucciani Dies At 36 
                   by Drew Wheeler  

                  Michel Petrucciani, the French jazz pianist whose 
                  diminutive stature stood in sharp contrast to his 
                  powerful, lyrical playing style, died in New York on 
                  Jan. 6 while hospitalized for treatment of a lung 
                  infection. He was 36.  

                  Petrucciani's small size--around three feet tall--was 
                  a result of his being born with osteogenesis 
                  imperfecta, a condition which causes a calcium 
                  deficiency that renders the bones of its sufferers 
                  excessively brittle and can cause stunted growth. 
                  Although the weakness of Petrucciani's bones 
                  sometimes made it necessary for him to be carried 
                  to the piano bench, listeners could be assured that 
                  his musical skills were ever intense and vibrant. 
                  His hands were strong enough to express a full 
                  range of the piano's dynamics and his feet pressed 
                  the instrument's pedals by means of extensions. 
                  His emotive, sometimes romantic style has been 
                  been likened to that of Bill Evans.  

                  Petrucciani, the son of jazz guitarist Antoine 
                  Petrucciani, was born on Dec. 28, 1962 in the 
                  French town of Orange, but was raised in the town 
                  of Montelimar. While his healthier peers were 
                  outside playing, the home-bound Petrucciani would 
                  practice the piano. He played in a family band with 
                  his father and bassist-brother, and his first 
                  professional appearance was at a French jazz 
                  festival that paired him with veteran trumpeter Clark 
                  Terry. At age 17, Petrucciani had made his first 
                  recording and subsequently toured France with 
                  noted altoist Lee Konitz. In 1982, Petrucciani 
                  moved to the Big Sur area of Northern California, 
                  where he met reedman Charles Lloyd, who had 
                  largely disappeared from the jazz scene. 
                  Petrucciani is credited with drawing Lloyd back 
                  into the public eye and played in Lloyd's quartet for 
                  three years. He then moved to New York to form 
                  his own group.  

                  Petrucciani recorded a series of albums for the Owl 
                  label, and then was signed to Blue Note Records 
                  in the mid-'80s. His Blue Note releases included 
                  such solo albums as Michel Plays Petrucciani 
                  and Promenade With Duke. He was backed by a 
                  band on other Blue Note albums, including 
                  Pianism (with Palle Danielsson and Eliot 
                  Zigmund), Power Of Three (with Jim Hall and 
                  Wayne Shorter) and Music, on which he was 
                  joined by many players, including Joe Lovano, 
                  Eddie Gomez, Adam Holzman, Gil Goldstein and 
                  Tania Maria.  

                  His most recent releases have been for producer 
                  Francis Dreyfus' label, Dreyfus Jazz. These have 
                  included Au Theatre Des Champs-Elysees and 
                  1998's Both Worlds, which features the 
                  contributions of trombonist/arranger Bob 
                  Brookmeyer. Petrucciani also appeared on 
                  albums by Lloyd, Lovano, Stephane Grappelli 
                  and Eddy Louiss. He is survived by his wife 
                  Erlinda and two children. 



Michel Petrucciani
b. 28 December 1962, Montpelier, France
          d. 6 Jan 1999, New York, New York 

After playing with Kenny Clarke and Clark Terry at the age of 15, Petrucciani moved to Paris, recorded his first album, and formed a successful duo with Lee Konitz just two years later. Moving to California in 1982, he joined Charles Lloyd's new quartet. However, it was a solo performance at Carnegie Hall as part of the Kool Jazz Festival that resulted in widespread critical acclaim. More recently Petrucciani has signed a contract with Blue Note Records, and worked with Wayne Shorter in Manhattan Project. He is a melodic, thoughtful pianist influenced by Herbie Hancock.    

Music Central '96


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