on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2021 27 Feb

A short remembrance of Michel Petrucciani

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments



I once hung out with Michel, the late Bay Area sax player, Mel Martin, Michel’s Italian friend and bass player (whose name I forget) and a couple other folks for one wild unforgettable night at the home of the late Jerry Sealund in Sebastopol CA. A wild man, a blind bassist and a friend of Charles Lloyd, Jerry had once played with a lot of the free jazz cats and recorded with some of them, but by the time I met him, had reinvented himself as the owner of the largest health food store in Sonoma County. He was a notorious party animal, and had quite a colorful history, which included hosting Stephen Gaskin’s Monday night Class (which became a classic New Age book)in the back of his Haight Ashbury health food store, Far Fetched Foods. Incidentally, that store burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances, and it was said that was how Jerry financed his large new store in Santa Rosa. But I digress …

Parties at Jerry’s were notorious. I had been to a few and knew what to expect. Predictably, the evening was a mad melange of lots of playing, drugs, alcohol, stories and plenty of colorful expletives.

Michel dug into his wallet at one point, took out a crumpled piece of paper and handed it over for me to read. It was a note by Chick Corea that said something to the effect that Michel was a fantastic talent and that he was sure he had a big career ahead. Tragically, that career was cut short.

We were all extremely high when Michel looked at me and said, “You know, people with my condition (glass bones disease,) never live that long. I’ll be lucky to make it to 30.” He raised his glass and said, “I don’t care motherfucker, lets enjoy this life!” And we proceeded to party like it was 1999. (It was actually probably around 1983.)

Michel hated being carried around. Eventually this strong willed little giant figured out a way to use short crutches to walk to the piano. I saw him do this one memorable night @ Kimballs in SF. After he got to the piano he somehow lifted himself up to the bench, no small feat. Once situated, Instead of using his brace which in the past he has attached from his foot to the pedal, he leaned precariously forwards on the edge of the bench and managed to reach the pedal without it. Somehow he played that way the whole night. It was beautiful.

This entry was posted on Samstag, 27. Februar 2021 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Fine read. For sure he has lived his life! And he must have been astonishingly successful with the ladies, too 😉.

  2. Jochen:

    He was a friend of Roger Willemsen.

    (mehr fein hineingestreute Kommentare wären schön)

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    As witten by NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk):

    In 1995, during a trip together, Roger Willemsen’s moving cinematic portrait „Non Stop – A Journey with Michel Petrucciani“ was made. „As we walked across the street in New York,“ Willemsen recalls, „the children interrupted their basketball game to greet Michel. When we stepped into the Village Vanguard, the musicians put down their instruments and said, ‚Ladies and gentlemen, a great one is among us.‘ At night in the hotel, Michel called me into his room with a six-pack, leaning naked against the couch and monologuing about the connection between playing the piano and making love. His vitality was intimidating, when he laughed his head almost burst, he was a berserker and at the same time – even in matters of friendship – the most tender impressionist.“

  4. Lajla:

    And he played with „fein“ guitarist Jim Hall.

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