Full marks to Dreyfus and whoever brought these three men together. Richard Galliano’s huge admiration for his hero Astor Piazzolla doesn’t at all identify the music with Tango or Argentina, or simply continue Piazzolla’s music in the way it has been continued by Bandoneon players or accordionists (including at times Galliano) to great effect. It confirms Piazzolla’s achievement qua instrumentalist in having extended in depth the expressive powers of not only his own bandoneon but also accordion—and in not merely his own music.
Those who cringe at the word “world” as stuck on recordings which don’t manage to be anything in particular (and they have something to say!) should be reassured that this is jazz.
Galliano’s extension of his instrument’s capacities can be heard without much difficulty if you have the CD. Obviously! The would-be describer needs to mention names—such as Grappelli, S. (violin); Thielemanns, T. (harmonica); the legacy of Bechet, S. (clarinet)—to indicate the appropriations of phrasing, fining down, vibrato á la clarinet and so forth that M. Galliano has at his fingertips. There is also some Davis, Wild Bill (organ) when requisite.
Monk on Accordion? “Ruby, My Dear” demanded a bass line beyond even M. Galliano’s splendid, slightly frightening buttons and bow-front bellows, and there very precisely is Larry Grenadier. There is a moment when the hairs on the neck rise, when the accordion’s breadth of scope raises harmonic relationships new even in Monk.
Nice to pause for “L’Insidieuse”, a Galliano original not so remote from the Musette Jazz of Grappelli and Reinhardt, and then contemplate the challenges a Latin tune poses: happily M. Galliano soars across any danger of pastiche Piazzolla. Things are thus set for a standout “Bohemia After Dark”, composed by the great bassist Oscar Pettiford and here starring Grenadier, with some echoes of an earlier and (happily unlike Pettiford) long-lived great bassist, Bob Haggart (try his Hag Leaps In trio set on the Arbors label). The present set is also emphatically a trio performance. Even Galliano’s musical (rather than chameleon) range on accordion, which includes also flute trills, needs the astringency of jazz bass virtues. The music positively flourishes with Clarence Penn’s resolve to enhance the business of keeping things going, finding lots of interesting alternatives to any mere routine. He maintains what needs maintained by very unmonotonous means. Ideal.
For more colour there’s something Maghrebien, Arab, in Galliano’s adaptation of Erik Satie: “Gnossienne #1”. Maestro Mr. Penn comes further to the fore, generating the cross-rhythms which kindle “Teulada”, a Musette Bebop theme from Galliano, with suggestions of a congenially exciting evening in Algeria. Of his own tunes here he has already recorded a couple in other company. Why not?
“Naïa” has no “m” in it and is not a John Coltrane composition but a fancy of the accordionist, who starts out of tempo and does a playful sort of “free” thing, before going into more musette bop, sometimes letting a lower register passage on accordion surge up to kick the swing along the better. This number alternates between musette and free, the accordion sound expanding especially over a drum solo.
Hark at the plangent bass notes in Galliano’s “Spleen”, titled I suppose from Baudelaire. Grenadier is crucial here as elsewhere, prompting and supporting the accordionist’s strong linear improvisation. At times, Galliano phrases like bowing a fiddle, and all through, Clarence Penn supports magnificently. There’s a successful attempt at a fairly big-scale climax. The finisher is more musette bop, Phil Woods in his heyday transferred to accordion, with the sort of extended workout that’s the bop altoist’s glory, and the soloing bassist’s and the soloing drummer’s. Nothing hackneyed here, three men on a roll!