Accordionist Richard Galliano's Tangaria Quartet made its studio debut earlier this year with the thrilling Luz Negra (Milan Records, 2007), recorded in Brazil. The group's warm-up gig for those sessions happened a month earlier, in August 2006, at France's Marciac Festival, and, happily, the performance was recorded.
Like the studio set, Live In Marciac 2006 is a fiery, foot-on-the-accelerator mix of valse musettes, straight-ahead jazz, tunes derived from European and South American folk songs, a handful of tangos and a splash of the classics. It's physical, attacking music, and it pauses to catch its breath on just two tracks (the wistful, elegiac "Spleen" and the prettily balletic "Sanfona").
Six of Luz Negra's fourteen tracks were previewed at Marciac, along with another eight tracks which weren't included on the studio disc. Mandolinist Hamilton De Holanda again guests, and the five tracks featuring him are, as on the studio album, amongst the highlights of the set.
The first twenty or so minutes of the gig, played sans De Holanda, are taken at rocket-fuelled pace, and are exciting enough, but the band is still feeling its way. Group passion and interaction take a quantum leap, coincidentally or not, with De Holanda's entrance on the appropriately titled valse musette "Fou Rire" (literally, uncontrollable laughter), which builds from Galliano's unaccompanied introduction into a collective force-ten gale. "Sertao," which follows, ups the temperature further, with the De Holanda's wild picking paying more than a nod to American bluegrass.
De Holanda's contributions are epic, but Galliano and violinist Alexis Cardenas are formidable too, both as individual soloists and as a hard-driving front line rhythm section. When Cardenas lets loose extended bursts of forceful, staccato, rapid-fire notes, as he frequently does, propelled by Galliano's thumping chords, the two players give the music an intoxicating, dervish-like intensity.
There are just three down-the-line tangos, Galliano's opening "Tango Pour Claude" (all but five tunes are originals) and the familiar Astor Piazzolla warhorses "Libertango" and "Escualo," the former given an exuberant seeing to by Galliano's unaccompanied accordion. Luz Negra's classical moment, a delicate reading of Erik Satie's "Gnossienne," is replaced by the J.S. Bach-derived "Traditionnel Venezuelien," a showcase for Cardenas.
An exhilarating set from start to seventy-two minute finish. Galliano writes in the liner notes that Marciac 2006 was "one of the most beautiful concerts of my life." For once, that doesn't sound like sales-savvy hyperbole.
Personnel: Richard Galliano: accordion; Alexis Cardenas: violin; Philippe Aerts: acoustic bass; Rafael Mejias: percussion; Hamilton De Holanda: mandolin (5-8, 13).