Baptiste Trotignon: ‘Hit’ with Thomas Bramerie and Jeff Ballard

The acclaimed French pianist and composer Baptiste Trotignon appears on this evocative, elegant and diverse new album of original compositions entitled “Hit”, released on the Naïve label. After recording and working on numerous projects throughout Europe and the US, with “Hit”, Trotignon returns to the world and art of the piano trio. Within its many colors are sub-divisions into different realms of sound, mood and feeling. With nods to music ranging from classical composers Debussy and Copland to pop icons such as Billy Joel, Trotignon’s versatility as a pianist is fully on display. The record is atmospheric, heartfelt and truly interesting.

Trotignon’s roots in classical piano are evident throughout, and finding yourself in the middle of one of his compositions is as if finding yourself in the middle of a carefully woven story. His opening and closing motifs are entitled “Choral”, and “Choral Again”. “Choral” is airy and spacious and both highlights and perfectly introduces the listener to his counterparts, bassist Thomas Bramerie and Jeff Ballard on the drums. The concluding motif gives us a harmonious bookend to the record, and connotes a feeling from Aaron Copland’s “Our Town Suite”- one of my personal favorites.

The trio springboards from that gentle air filled opening into a bright and electrifying Mambo, entitled “Abracadabra”. Moments later we’re introduced to an impressive Art Tatum quality in the speed, energy and clarity of “Solid”. By five tunes in, he has really earned a ballad, that being a tune entitled “Air”. It features bassist Thomas Bramerie at his soulful best and highlights some very delicate and sensitive playing by drummer Jeff Ballard. Harkening to Trotignon’s appreciation of classics and the standards, I even hear strains of “I’m In The Mood For Love”. A great five minutes to sit back, soak up and listen.

If one could attach a season to a record such as this, it seems to me that fall is the perfect choice, as displayed here in the featured sample track, “Paul”. The tune opens with Debussy- like qualities, and slides into shades of Billy Joel’s Broadway album “Movin’ Out”. This tune, and indeed the entire album, transports the listener to a perfect autumn afternoon in New York, (or Paris). Perhaps the story you will find yourself in is a crisp autumn stroll that takes you home to a roaring fire and a great glass of wine. No matter how you spend your time listening to “Hit”, it is certain to delight, entertain and provide wonderful atmosphere – perfectly timed for the season of hearth and home.

Album Overview

“HIT – Because hitting as percussion, as the primary driving force of sound, the fundamental element of so many musical forms, their organic element and life source, has always been at the centre of most types of Afro-American music and all those derived from it. And because my love for melody, which has always made me want to make the piano sing and use it as a cantabile instrument, has never completely taken me away me from the pleasure of physically hitting the keys, with all its instinctive, earthly connotations.

“When the gesture of ‘hitting’ is multiplied and organizes itself into a coherent musical discourse, it generates an infinite diversity of rhythms and playing modes, and it’s the way you accentuate a given phrase or note or harmony that brings those rhythms to life. This notion of accent has always fascinated me, and it’s exciting to hear how a parallel could be drawn between a certain tradition of masters of accentuation in the jazz idiom (Bill Evans and Lennie Tristano, for example, to mention only pianists) with some European composers for whom the way one places accents is a joyful creative force in itself (I’m thinking of Beethoven, Bartók, Ravel or Ligeti, among others). One of the dimensions of «Hit» is that the programme has been conceived as a series of games around these accents, whether it’s in writing or improvising, in voluble and brilliant moments or the most melodic and meditative ballads.

“Recording an album of compositions exclusively for trio is a kind of homecoming for me (I hadn’t done it for 13 years), with just the feeling that now was the right time to do it. I’m sometimes asked whether it makes sense to continue to play in trio formation, which historically has been overused by pianists, but I admit the question has never occurred to me, and I’ve never doubted the unlimited resources of this triangular architecture, which is still a source of shared pleasure and a potential for renewing the language. Would there be no point in a solo artist singing along with his guitar on the grounds that ‘it’s already been done?’

“As I often like to do, the music on this album is a mix of multiple sources of inspiration (here almost a pop song, or a very Latin melody, elsewhere a colour leaning more towards world music or the music of the ’70s) but remains lovingly connected to the foundations of Afro-American music, driven by something joyous in its dynamism and a common desire (for Thomas, Jeff and me) to remain playful, even when the sonic construction calls for a certain sophistication. As the artist-philosopher said, what else are we doing but trying to ‘get back to the serious way we used to play when we were children?'” ~ Baptiste Trotignon


Baptiste Trotignon, piano

Baptiste Trotignon (1974) is a French jazz pianist. Trotignon began studying the violin at age five, but, inspired by his father’s avid amateur pianism, he quickly switched to the piano. Beginning at age nine, he undertook private study of the classical and romantic piano repertoire, and went on to graduate from the Academy of Music in Nantes with a degree in piano and composition.

In 1995, Trotignon moved to Paris, and began to gain recognition in jazz clubs and, increasingly, at international festivals. His accompaniment credits include such noted artists as Eric Le Lann, Christian Escoudé, Ricardo Del Fra, Claudia Solal, François y Louis Moutin, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Aldo Romano, Frank Morgan and others.

En 1998, he formed a trio with Clovis Nicolas (bass) and Tony Rabeson (drums). In 2001 Trotignon won the “Django d’Or” prize, awarded to the most promising young French musician, in recognition of his first disc, ‘Fluide.’ In 2012, in addition to playing over 80 concerts in France and around Europe and Asia, Baptiste released a “Song Song Song”, an album on which he celebrated his love of the vocalist’s art and invited a prestigious group of artists including Miossec (with whom he co-wrote two tracks) and Melody Gardot to take part in his project. Around the same time his piano concerto “Different Spaces”, his first major non-improvised orchestral piece, was commissioned by the Orchestre National de Bordeaux Aquitaine and performed for the first time by Nicholas Angelich. It received an enthusiastic welcome and Baptiste was named Composer of the Year at the 2014 Victoires de la Musique Classique. He has continued to develop this new aspect of his work, venturing into chamber music with his “Empreintes” string quartet and a Sonata for Flute and Piano.


Thomas Bramerie, upright bass

Thomas Bramerie (Born September 18, 1965 in Bergerac) is a French jazz bassist. Raised in Toulon, in the south of France, Thomas began studying guitar with Tony Petrucciani in 1980, furthering his playing ability with J-P Florens in 1984. He then moved into playing electric bass with the Belmondo Brothers group, but opted for the acoustic bass in 1988.

He participates in many tours in the South Eastern part of France, notably with Peter King, Ted Nash and Bobby Porcelli. Additional performance credits include Chet Baker, Toots Thielemans, Johnny Griffin, Steve Grossman, and many others.


Jeff Ballard, drums 

Jeff Ballard (born 17 September 1963) is an American jazz drummer from Santa Cruz, California. He has played with Ray Charles and Pat Metheny and plays periodically with Chick Corea in many groups such as Origin and the Chick Corea New Trio. He also played with many New York-based jazz musicians such as Reid Anderson, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Miguel Zenon and Eli Degibri. He has also played with the Joshua Redman Elastic Band.

He is currently a member of the Brad Mehldau Trio and co-leader of Fly, a collective trio with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier.



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