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Richard Galliano / Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Ten Years Ago

Chris May By

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An energetic recording artist who since 2007 has been averaging three albums a year, accordionist Richard Galliano appears even more prolific because of the quick-fire diversity of contexts in which he places himself—solo, with his Tangaria quartet, with European and American jazz groups ranging from duos to larger lineups, and with strings. Between them, Galliano's albums have embraced tango, jazz, chanson and the classics. In a long career as leader however, he has never recorded with a big band—until now and Ten Years Ago, his first release of 2009 and a thumping five-star triumph.



The album partners Galliano with the undersung but brimming-hot Brussels Jazz Orchestra on nine Galliano compositions and Astor Piazolla's "Michelangelo 70." Five of the arrangements are by Galliano, another five by trumpeter and composer Bert Joris. There are just two tangos, "Michelangelo 70" and "Tango Pour Claude," both of them arranged by Galliano, and the main thrust of the album is the American jazz tradition tempered by chanson. In this respect Ten Years Ago resembles its immediate predecessor, Love Day: Los Angeles Sessions (Milan, 2008), made with pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Mino Cinelu.



There are few precedents for accordion/big band collaborations—Gil Evans' orchestra once featured Gil Godstein, Maria Schneider's Gary Versace—and no generally accepted arranging parameters. Galliano and Joris approach the project from contrasting, but compatible directions. Galliano plays the orchestra as though it was an accordion, using closely harmonized brass and reed sections to recreate the intense chordal signature of the instrument and its intermittent, percussive, stabbing emphases. The transference is at its most literal in the tangos, both of which are given dramatic, full-on arrangements. On the swinging "Rue De Maubeuge" and "Take Eleven" Galliano stays a little closer to the American jazz big band tradition, with the soft and pretty "Poeme" a chanson-informed interlude.



Joris, who in addition to leading his own small groups has since the late 1970s played in and composed/arranged for many of the leading European big bands, takes a more traditional approach—but one distinguished by boundless energy and fresh-painted instrumental colors. He brilliantly succeeds in integrating the accordion into the orchestra, alternatively allowing Galliano to ride over screaming brass (as in "Teulada" and "Coloriage"), be caressed by lush, velvety woodwinds (as in "Ten Years Ago" and "Giselle"), or be driven along by raw, Middle Eastern-inspired dance rhythms (as in the closing "Taraf.")



In his liner notes, Galliano dedicates this album to a lover who died ten years ago, and reproduces the words of Guilliaume Apollinaire's anguished lament for lost love, "Le Pont Mirabeau," whose words he says sum up his feeling about the music. More than this, Ten Years Ago evokes the unquenchable vitality that imbued Apollinaire's work, and his own reading of the poem recorded in 1913. Galliano's solos, be they close-to-berserk, two-handed whirlwinds, or, less frequently, quieter lyrical reflections, share the same luminosity. There are strong solos too from Frank Vaganee on soprano saxophone, Kurt Van Herck on tenor, Pierre Drevet on trumpet and Marc Godfroid on trombone. An altogether brilliantly realized album.


Track Listing: Michaelangelo 70; Teulada; Ten Years Ago; Rue De Maubeuge; Tango Pour Claude; Poeme; Coloriage; Giselle; Take Eleven; Taraf.

Personnel: Richard Galliano: accordion; Frank Vaganee: lead alto and soprano saxophone, flute, artistic director; Dieter Limbourg: alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute; Kurt Van Herck: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Bart Defoort: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Bo Van Der Werf: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Serge Plume: lead trumpet; Nico Schepers: trumpet; Pierre Drevet: trumpet; Jeroen Van Malderen: trumpet; Marc Godfroid: lead trombone; Lode Mertens: trombone; Ben Fleerakkers: trombone; Laurent Hendrick: bass trombone; Jos Machtel: bass; Klaas Balijon: drums.

Title: Ten Years Ago | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Milan Records

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