A Martial Solal solo piano concert is both an intimate and an intellectual exercise. In fitting with two current Kimmel Center initiatives - an homage to French culture and a celebration of Thelonious Monk - the 83-year-old jazz icon from Paris produced a magical, criminally under-attended set at the Perelman Theater on Saturday night.
Solal's technical brilliance as a pianist allows him to be simultaneously dispassionate and passionate. His modus operandi is straightforward: He almost always plays jazz standards, but reworks them to such a degree that they are pretty much unrecognizable.
Solal aggressively mined jazz and classical genomes throughout his set, but there also were fragments of DNA from other styles. The melancholy underpinnings of the tango graced some of his improvisations. Once, during an introspective, open moment, his meanderings evoked Hank Williams.