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French Touch

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Album Review

Tango accordion has a clear icon in the late Astor Piazzolla, but these days Richard Galliano is making a strong case for being the premier jazz accordionist. He's as lyrical as one needs, swings like mad, or brings tempos down to a sensual jog with passion and soul. When called upon, he can play a gut-wrenching tango or two himself. For this effort he's joined by two different crack rhythm sections, the brilliant Jean-François Jenny-Clark and Daniel Humair (seven tracks), or the slightly cut below Remi Vignolo and Andre Ceccarelli (four tracks), bass and drums respectively. It's not hard to hear a distinctly French but improvisationally Americanized sound. The lone standard, "You Must Believe in Spring," is one of many waltzes, but this one jumps from second to fifth gear, Galliano rapidly flying through the changes. The title track is also quick, with "Augusta" more a sprightly 3/4, while "L'Envers du Décor" is an easier modal three beat. Nods to Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal are heard on his composition "Bébé" and the mallets on drums and heavy conga beat-based fanfare and theme of "Passarinho." Galliano plays his accordion and whistles in unison on both tracks. Soprano saxophonist Michel Portal swings with Galliano, Humair, and Clark on the 6/8 "J.F.," while Clark duets with Galliano on "Sanguine," which is far from bloody, more like sweet sangria. "Heavy Tango" is as it is titled — hard-driving and no holds barred — and there's a slow samba, "Sanfona," one of nine of Galliano's written works. Even when the swing is light, as on "Caruso," Galliano's button pushing is active, pulsing, and popping. There's much to like on this, Galliano's most engaging CD. Perhaps some will beg for more variation, like the Portal cut. But these rhythm sections, especially Europe's finest Clark and Humair, push Galliano's artistry to greater heights, providing the listener with a unique experience in a jazz and even more so in a world music context. Highly recommended. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 12 December 1950 in Le Cannet, France

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Accordionist Richard Galliano did for European folk -- specifically, the early 20th century French ballroom dance form known as musette -- what his mentor Astor Piazzolla did for the Argentinian tango. Galliano reimagined and revitalized a musical tradition, expanding its emotional range to reflect modern sensibilities, opening it up to improvisation learned through American jazz. In fact, Galliano was more of a jazz musician than a folk one, although he blurred the lines so much that distinctions...
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French Touch, Richard Galliano
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