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Album Review

For those unfamiliar with accordionist Richard Galliano, this set is a rare kind of introduction to the man who, inspired by the late Astor Piazzolla, redeemed the accordion as an instrument for improvisation. This three-CD collection will delight fans, all of whom have favorite settings in which to hear Galliano play. There are three of them here: solo, duo, and trio. The solo set is perhaps the most revelatory: one complete concert in Orvieto, Italy, at the foot of the mountains on New Year's Eve, 1998. Here is where Galliano's particular genius and discipline reveal their magic. This is how his New Musette form of music was developed — playing to himself in a mirror. The swinging harmonic phrases and melodic lines, at sometimes dizzying tempos, are entrancing as he stops and starts on a dime, gliding effortlessly from a jazz style to a form of Italian, Andalusian, and Turkish folk songs to French cabaret music to African balakos and back again. This is music made spontaneously, on the spot and in the mind, in the same manner Bill Evans made music, from the most intimate part of the heart without letting the thought process cloud the emotional or musical sensibility. The duo setting with clarinetist Michel Portal, recorded a few months earlier in a German radio studio, is frighteningly intense. This pair starts furiously reeling through dances and mazurkas before going off into the stratosphere of improvisation. After that, even the ballads, tangos, and waltzes have a furious pace and depth. There is aggression in this pairing, but there is also great beauty. And the genius of Galliano's playing is that he can play support and soloist to Portal at the same time. These two men are playing telepathically. There is no rehearsal for this kind of melodic improvising, where each man begins to quote the other simultaneously! In fact, this second disc is so wildly inventive and highly energized that it's best to take a long break before putting on disc three. The trio set, recorded at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1996, features Daniel Humair on drums and Jean-François Jenny-Clark on bass. This trio has been playing together for over 15 years; they know everything about the listening experience. They know how to make jazz tell stories and when the improvisations begin to turn back on themselves and transform into something else. Jenny-Clark is undeniably an unsung talent on his instrument, whether bowing or playing staccato, his harmonic and rhythmic instincts are on the level of the perceptual. While Galliano assumes the role of a saxophonist and solos nearly incessantly when not stating the melody, Jenny-Clark assumes the role of pianist and bassist simultaneously. His rhythm-keeping and harmonic invention lead Humair into territories where modes and textures shift shape and nuance, forcing Galliano to move further inside the music for his ideas. Outside the trio is nothing; inside it, the entire sound world of music is contained and its language sung with lyrical fire. Dreyfuss has done a spectacular job of showcasing Galliano as a leader and a collaborator here. The only complaint is that there isn't a fourth disc that features his near-legendary collaborations with Piazzolla, Art Pepper, Toots Thielemans, Enrico Rava, Michel Petrucciani,and others. But perhaps that's another box set.


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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Concerts Inédits: Trio, Richard Galliano
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