François Couturier is internationally renowned for his unique abilities as a pianist and composer for walking a loose but deliberate line between modern classical music, jazz, and creative improvisation.
Couturier was born in 1950 near Orleans, France. He began his formal piano studios at home with his father, an accomplished amateur pianist who passed on his love for the classics and jazz to his son. He had a private tutor at age seven and continued with lessons until he was 20 and learned improvisation from listening to his father. He studied classical music and musicology at the University of Tours (Indre-et-Loire). In 1977, he performed with his self-founded group Impression, and in 1978 he joined the quintet of Jacques Thollot, where he met longtime collaborator bassist Jean-Paul Celea. In 1980, he received the Django Reinhardt Prize from the Académie du Jazz and with Celea cut the date Couturier & Celea for Disques JMS. He was also recruited by McLaughlin for his Translators band (which also included Celea) that toured the globe between 1981 and 1983. After a period of composing and experimentation, Couturier co-founded the large new music and jazz ensemble Passaggio with Celea in 1986; they recorded one self-titled album for Label Bleu in 1994. During this time, Couturier also collaborated with François Jeanneau, Didier Levallet, Michel Portal, and Larry Schneider on the album Correspondances.
The pianist made his debut appearance with Pfarely on ECM in 1998 with Poros, which preceded a year-long tour. In 2001, he joined oudist Anouar Brahem's trio, resulting in the discs La Pas du Chat Noir and Le Voyage du Sahar for ECM, while pursuing his own projects on the side. These included the album Music for a While with Jean-Louis Matinier and Jean-Marc Larché in 2002, and the landmark Nostalghia: Song for Tarkovsky in 2006 by the now famed Tarkovsky Quartet that included Matinier, Larché, and cellist Anja Lechner. This group became an international sensation in both modern classical and even jazz circles. In 2007, Couturier released two more collaborative recordings, Toru Takemitsu: Songs with Dominique Visse and Tryptic with Celea and Daniel Humair. 2009 saw the issue of Musica Callada, his tribute to Federico Mompou with Francois Mechali and Francois Laizeau on Zig Zag Territoires. The following year, ECM released Couturier's first solo piano offering, Un Jour Si Blanc. Couturier was never idle, either working with others or touring solo or with the Tarkovsky Quartet. 2011's Tarkovsky Quartet date differed from its predecessor by including classical works by Bach, Pergolesi, and Shostakovich, along with fresh chamber originals by Couturier. He and Lechner participated -- along with Michele Rabia -- on Maria Pia de Vito's ECM New Series debut Il Pergolese in 2013. The following year, Lechner and Couturier released the duo set Moderato Cantabile highlighting works by Mompou, Komitas and Gurdjieff. While the pianist concerned himself with studio work and composition as well as the occasional concert over the next two years, one of the projects he was working on was a series of self-composed works for the Tarkovsky Quartet. These saw the light with the recording of the group's Nuit Blanche, issued by ECM in 2017. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi