Can Jacky Terrasson create magic and drama at the piano? Absolutely. Has he made good on the hype that surrounded him after he won the Thelonious Monk Institute piano competition, provoked a bidding war, and garnered an impressive contract with Blue Note? Not really. Though Terrasson’s been promoted as Generation X’s greatest gift to jazz piano, his first two recordings, trio albums that abound in his flashy arrangements and dynamics-driven solos, didn’t sell well and haven’t aged much better. A subsequent duet date with a label mate, diva Cassandra Wilson, offered nothing new and even obscured his star. Most recently, though–either in hopes of exploiting the Parisian-bred pianist’s onstage charisma, or simply out of desperation–someone at Blue Note got the idea to cut a live album by Terrasson’s trio at New York’s Iridium; the new disc, Alive, features greater depth and more intrigue than the rest of his oeuvre put together. In his love of lapidary melody and romantic phrasing, the 32-year-old Terrasson combines the influence of Keith Jarrett with an update of Ahmad Jamal’s spare constraint; indeed, on Alive he plays a haunted, exotic arrangement of Tony Williams’s “Sister Cheryl” that could soon occupy the same place in Terrasson’s repertoire that the 1958 hit “Poinciana” has in Jamal’s. Even Terrasson’s almost threadbare trademarks–his use of allusion, his Bucktown chef’s penchant for mixing outrageously disparate elements–feel brand-new in the nightclub. He pulls off an improbable nod to Sammy Davis Jr. by shoehorning “The Candy Man” into the Ellington Orchestra’s “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”; later, he manages to balance an arrangement of the Cole Porter standard “Love for Sale” atop Herbie Hancock’s slippery fusion favorite “Chameleon.” Count on more of the same at these gigs. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, November 8, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Kimmy Katz.