Dreyfus Jazz continues to stretch the definition of jazz, as it includes some of Europe's extraordinary musicians interpreting jazz standards, even as they push the limits of the music. Such is the case with Richard Galliano, actually a virtuoso player of the accordion, which, like the violin, is rooted deeply in European folk music. What distinguishes Galliano, though, is the way that he blends the rich European tradition with jazz licks and allusions. Indeed, he includes exceptional genre-crossing and explorative jazz musicians on The Best Of Richard Galliano,
a compilation of tracks from 7 of his CD's stretching back to 1993.
Even though the accordion has lost some of its respect in the U.S., the more legato work of Art Van Damme being the most notable exception, Galliano proves that the accordion can be an exciting instrument commanding the attention of an audience through its own strengths. One of those strengths is the accordion's timbre, created by compressed air forced over various reeds--and one which the harmonica shares to some extent. Thus, it's appropriate that Toots Thielemans shows up on two of the tracks with Palle Danielsson and Joey Baron, the Gallic sense of longing apparent in their music.
But oddly enough, and appropriately enough, Galliano's interpretation of Argentinean Astor Piazzolla's "Invierno Porteño," recorded live in Le Mans, is one of the highlights of the album. Since Piazzolla's compositions borrow strongly from French phrasing and emotional rawness, Galliano instinctively understands the elasticity of the music, pulling a phrase to dramatic lengths or accelerating a motif as if in a march.
Galliano is accompanied by exceptional musicians throughout the CD, and it is difficult to single out one for praise. As always, Birèli Lagréne is a master of precision and energy on the guitar. Michel Portal's duo with Galliano on "Leo Estante Num Instante" masterfully understates the harmony to allow Galliano space to develop the rhythm and melody single-handedly, Portal's punctuations jabbing and squawking for elevating effect. Frank Sitbon's minimalistic piano accompaniment on "Spleen" stresses the sway of the waltz feel while staying out of the way of yet another chorded instrument.
For those who want to catch up on some of the innovative work of an inspiring jazz accordionist--one with technique unlike any other's--The Best Of Richard Galliano
provides the perfect opportunity.