The first time you meet Michel Petrucciani, it’s can be rather daunting. His person is smaller than you can imagine, even from pictures, perhaps not even three feet in height, but his presence is enormous, all laughter and energy and musician’s street talk, “Hey brother, what’s happening?” with a combination of New York hustle and French elan. Fortunately, our getting together for this conversation was not the first time I had met Michel. The first time was at a small club in Brussels, where I was playing, and suddenly Michel showed up with drummer Roy Haynes. They settled into a table directly behind the piano where they proceeded to order drinks, party and call out requests. (I remember distinctly Michel requesting “that song about all the Piano Players” in a way that left no room to suggest that it had already been played in the first set.) Often, when such renowned musicians arrive in a jazz club, the band can become rattled. But Michel’s presence only made us enjoy ourselves more. Michel is very aware of the temporary nature of life, that being here is a gift, and he is intent on sharing his gift with all, and at all deliberate speed.