A US resident for almost two decades, Paris native Jean-Michel Pilc taught himself to play piano. Before moving to the U.S., he had toured throughout Europe, participating on numerous recordings and film scores. In New York, Pilc formed a trio with François Moutin (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums). The trio became a popular fixture in Big Apple venues such as the Blue Note, Iridium, Knitting Factory, and Sweet Basil. In 2000, Pilc was awarded the Django Reinhardt Prize from the French Jazz Academy. Also in 2000, Pilc’s trio released a pair of acclaimed recordings, Jean-Michel Pilc Trio - Together - Live at Sweet Basil, NYC - Vol. 1 & 2 (A-Records) before Pilc signed on to Dreyfus Jazz; the trio then released Welcome Home in 2002 which was highly successful critically and commercially. Noted Neal Tesser, “Pilc's playing reveals a roaring fire that all but consumes the cosmopolitan sheen stereotypical of European music.... he creates an admirable trialogue with his band mates (bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig) that represents another stage in the evolution of the interplay brought to piano jazz by Bill Evans.” Welcome Home was followed in 2003 by Cardinal Points, which features Jean-Michel's extended work, “Trio Sonata,” created through a grant from Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Program, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Pilc received a similar grant again in 2009 for the creation of “Modern Lights.” In 2004, Pilc released a solo recording, Follow Me, then came full circle in 2005 with a live trio recording, Live at the Iridium, New York, introducing his new ensemble with Thomas Bramerie on bass and Mark Mondesir on drums. The trio released a follow-up, New Dreams, in 2007, described by Thomas Conrad in Jazz Times as “ironically irreverent and technically stunning.” Notes John Fordham (The Guardian), “Pilc hurls the kitchen sink into everything he does - irrepressible quotations from all over the jazz tradition, drummer-like affection for the explosive accent followed by the double-taking silence, streams of fluid improvised melody over a fast groove one moment, bumpy disruptions of the pulse and skews to the harmony the next.” Then came True Story, Pilc’s last CD for Dreyfus, with the great Billy Hart on drums, and Boris Kozlov on bass. Pilc’s next two albums were both released in 2011 on the Motema label to great critical acclaim: Essential, a live solo piano recording, and Threedom, featuring his legendary trio with François Moutin & Ari Hoenig, which re-formed in 2010 under the collective name Pilc Moutin Hoenig. When not performing solo or with his trio, Pilc teaches master classes and clinics, as well as privately. He is also a NYU Steinhardt faculty member. Pilc has recently released a book, "It's About Music - The Art and Heart of Improvisation", and an educational video for all instruments, "True Jazz Improvisation". In 2013, Jean-Michel has been granted a Fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, in the Music Composition category. The project is an octet, "Big One", featuring all new, original music. In 2014, Jean-Michel is releasing "What Is This Thing Called?", his third solo album and first release for Sunnyside Records. He is also forming a new trio featuring Ira Coleman on bass and Victor Lewis on drums, a highly exciting combination.
"His densely harmonic reinventions of standards you thought you knew clearly shows a musical genius at work."
Eric Brace, The Washington Post