May 25, 2024

Thierry Eliez, Emerson Enigma

As soon as I started listening to this track, I was in a great place, watching crackly 1970s American wildlife documentaries, watching otters frollicking in a stream in some otherwise barren rocky landscape in Colorado. Jazz, that scurries, and hurries, but playfully.

About Thierry Eliez

After forty years of improvised explorations, world-renowned French pianist, organist and composer Thierry Eliez has once again shattered boundaries with his new album Emerson Enigma: a reimagining of the works of Keith Emerson. Founder of ‘Emerson Lake & Palmer’, one of the most celebrated progressive rock groups of the 1970’s, Keith Emerson became known for combining original compositions with classical or traditional pieces adapted to a rock format, as well as becoming a key proponent of the Hammond organ and Moog synthesisers, selling over 49 million albums worldwide.

On Emerson Enigma, Thierry Eliez captures the essence of the original works, while stripping them of the electric textures typical of the seventies and subtly introducing strings, voices and extracts of other classical pieces, in order to create a beautiful recording that is as skillful as it is captivating. A chance meeting in Los Angeles between Emerson and Eliez ignited a friendship, which led Eliez to carry out this particularly intimate tribute. “We had to preserve the surreal and grandiose dimension of the works, without forgetting that most of them are also pop songs.” says Thierry.

Helping him to achieve this are the Manticore Quartet: cello virtuoso Guillaume Latil (Cuareim Quartet, Youn Sun Nah, Daniel Yvinec, Anthony Jambon), violins from Johan Renard (Richard Bona, Archie Shepp, Steve Coleman, Didier Lockwood) and Khoa Nam Nguyen (Quatuor Elmire, François Salque, Samuel Strouck, Anne Gastinel) with Vladimir Percevic on viola (Renaud Capuçon, Mélody Gardot, Nabuko Imai). Completing the group is metamorphic vocalist and regular collaborator Ceilin Poggi, who (along with Eliez), navigates the surreal dimensions of Greg Lake texts and Keith Emerson’s music with a dose of crazy, offbeat and even theatrical humour.

Thierry Eliez recounts and sublimates Emerson’s work by merging pieces from various Emerson Lake & Palmer, as well as his work with band The Nice. Eliez freely conceives (according to the principle of association dear to Emerson) montages in a combined suite of original pieces, classical works and improvisations. From Knife Edge, Tarkus, The Endless Enigma to Pictures Of An Exhibition, we enjoy Janácek’s Sinfonietta, further on Bach’s Suite Française in D Minor, then excerpts of Mussorgsky intermingle with the ELP’s works – Eliez remarks: “You just have to look for an exciting junction to bring coherence to the whole.”

Far from a simple rereading of Keith Emerson’s work, the new album Emerson Enigma offers the keys to the enigmatic, lush, avant-garde world of Emerson as composer combined with Thierry Eliez’s unique brand of virtuosity, resulting in a singular and prominent recording with the potential to become a seminal work of epic proportions.


Thierry Eliez :                Piano, Vocals
Ceilin Poggi :                 Vocals
Johan Renard :               Violin
Khoa-Nam NGuyen:      Violin
Valentine Garilli:            Viola
Guillaume Latil:             Cello


Serge Babkine : Sound Engineer



Virtuoso pianist, born improviser, insatiable composer, arranger, artistic director, Thierry Eliez is a great master of French jazz who needs no introduction. Adulated by the greatest musicians, he is “the essential pianist that it is imperative to know” – FIP.


Thierry Eliez’s musical curiosity that have led him to develop numerous collaborations beyond the borders of jazz and France. He has played more than 5,000 concerts in over 56 countries, appeared on 65 albums, firstly joining Didier Lockwood’s quartet at the age of 21. André Ceccarelli, who presented him as a diamond in the rough, took a liking to him. Together they founded the trio that has had the most profound effect on the 1990s and on the young generations that make up today’s jazz: the Ceccarelli Trio. Three albums were born and will remain engraved in the history of French jazz, including Hat Snatcher, co-composed with Jean Marc Jafet, which received the “Victoire de la Musique” in the Jazz category awarded by Michel Petrucciani and the “Prix Django d’Or” in 1992.


His meeting with Dee Dee Bridgewater marked the beginning of a long friendship on stage and in the studio. They recorded 4 albums, including the tribute to Horace Silver “Love and Peace”, and toured for 14 years on the most prestigious stages in the world, from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Blue Note in Tokyo. Among his most important encounters, on stage and in the studio, are Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Aretha Franklin, David Sanchez, James Moody, Toots Thielemans, Ron Carter, Gatto Pancieri, Pino Paladino, Terry Lynn Carrington, Gary Novak, Roy Hargrove, Jaco Pastorius,…But also the composers Michel Legrand and Eric Serra, who did not hesitate to consecrate him as “one of the greatest improvising pianists in the world”.


Thierry has collaborated with French-speaking artists such as Claude Nougaro, Charles Aznavour, Roberto Alagna, Catherine Lara, Henri Salvador, Muriel Robin, Dimitri from Paris, Maurane, Véronique Sanson, Richard Cocciante, Johnny Hallyday, Christophe, Alain Chamfort, Pascal Obispo, Nathalie Dessay, and many others. French jazz has seen him become a legend of the piano: the fruit of a long list of albums and stages shared equally with his alter egos Didier Lockwood, André Ceccarelli, Sylvain Luc, Stefano Di Battista, Bireli Lagrène, Rhoda Scott, Olivier Ker Ourio, Bernard Lubat, Richard Galliano, Michel Portal, the Belmondo brothers, Pierre Bertrand, Philippe Catherine, Louis Winsberg, Médéric Collignon and many more.


In 2008, Thierry Eliez succeeded Joe Zawinul, pianist of Weather Report, in The Syndicate, until 2016 and recorded the album “File under Zawinul” with long-time partners including Paco Séry and the young saxophonist Emile Parisien He took the direction of a recital for 20 pianos in which he presented a new generation of promising pianists including Armel Dupas, Thomas Enhco, Paul Lay, Leila Olivesi, Manuel Rocheman, Franck Woeste. In 2016, Thierry Eliez built a pianistic approach to the work of Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake & Palmer during a unique filmed concert that received a dithyrambic international reception, followed by a European tour, which will end at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham (GB) in 2017. 2017 is marked by a new artistic direction with the signature on the DOOD Label, new personal creations and the release of his first solo piano album, “Improse”. Behind closed doors with the Fazioli Grand Piano, Thierry Eliez improvises “A sensitive and dizzying album” Jazz Magazine, in which he “lets the masterful and pianistic hidden side of his personality appear” France Musique. In 2019, Improse en solo becomes a particularly inspired and free trialogue. André Ceccarelli and Ivan Gélugne joined him to record a second opus, “Improse Extended”, released on the DOOD Music label to critical acclaim.


At the same time, he took over the musical direction of the Balladines project with the singer Ceilin Poggi. Two albums of awakening to gentleness, of musical transmission for newborns, will be published in book disc: Berceuses et Balladines Jazz (2017) and Balladines & Chansons douces (2020) by Editions Didier Jeunesse… A duo that “knows the magic formula of gentleness”Télérama, Coup de Cœur de l’Académie Charles Cros and l’Humanité for being “Deliciously irreverent and brilliant”, “A bubble of musical and poetic tenderness” France Musique. In 2020, the group MAGMA asked him to compose, arrange and play new keyboards with them.

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