Dreyfus Records--committed not so much to putting a European stamp on jazz as reveling in the universality of the music--has been making available to the American public a succession of exceptional French jazz musicians who otherwise would have attracted a cult following. And their CD's would have been brought back to the U.S. from overseas tourists and businesspeople. Instead, we're able to obtain from no farther than the local music store the recordings of French musicians like Michel Petrucciani and Jean-Michel Pilc, as well as "French" musicians like Johnny Griffin and Steve Grossman.
Not strangers to the Dreyfus label, accordionist Richard Galliano and B-3 organ player Eddy Louiss finally have joined forces, without a rhythm section (indeed, they're their own rhythm section) for a beginning-to-end duo performance. Surprising in its energy made possible by the unspoken communication between the musicians during performance, Face To Face
is all the more surprising by the diversity of its musical content.
As expected, Galliano and Louiss explore the traditional, and unique, Gallic sound, emotionally bared and beseechingly melodic, as on "Sous Le Ciel De Paris" ("Under Paris Skies"), taken not as a lilting tune played on Parisian streets, but rather as a jazz waltz made implicit by Louiss' syncopation behind the melody. Before you know it, after an abrupt halt, the tune becomes a 4/4 version of the tune allowing for open-ended improvisation, including Louiss' quote from Benny Golson's "Blues March."
World traveler Golson seems to be a primary influence for both musicians, for they once again tip their hats to him with their own interpretation of "I Remember Clifford," Galliano injecting a lachrymose reediness to the melody while Louiss establishes a mournful tone through subtle and understated accompaniment. An additional tribute includes "Azul Tango," for which Charlie Haden reportedly was the inspiration. While Haden certainly is acknowledged for his influence on the music of the world, what with his all-encompassing curiosity and steadfast stances on issues, one instead thinks of Astor Piazzolla, not because the tune is a tango but because its overall feel and elasticity remind one of the Argentiean composer.
Eight of the 11 tracks are original compositions, and one assumes that they were written for this match-up of like minds. Both Louiss and Galliano share technical virtuosity and unrestrained curiosity. But also, they possess, as do all of the best duos, an instant understanding of the other's thoughts and where the tune is going, leaving the listener baffled at the attainment of the fluidity of sound. This involves the interchange of melody and accompaniment, not to mention rhythmic propulsion. Both instruments are capable of all three characteristics, but the ease with which both musicians combine elements for an enlarged effect is unique. Because both instruments can attain orchestral effects, as well as changes of timbre and the extensions of notes over many
measures, the magnification of the effect by both instruments is much greater than that of, say, piano and vibes.
While Americans have contributed to jazz accordion to a limited extent, such as Leon Sash or Pete Selvaggio, it never has been a part of the national musical landscape, as it has in European countries. The synthesis of Galliano's and Louiss' absorption of the jazz idiom with an adherence to their instruments of choice creates a CD that's not only unusual, but also incomparable. No one else but those two musicians could have made Face To Face.