Born: Dec 12, 1950 in Le Cannet, France
Styles: Orchestral Jazz, 20th Century Classical/Modern Composition, Post-Bop, Tango
Instruments: Bandoneon, Composer, Accordion
Accordionist Richard Galliano did for European folk - specifically, the early-20th-century French ballroom dance form known as musette - what his mentor Astor Piazzolla did for the Argentinean tango. Galliano re-imagined and revitalized a musical tradition, expanding its emotional range to reflect modern sensibilities, and opening it up to improvisation learned through American jazz. In fact, Galliano was more of a jazz musician than a folk one, although he blurred the lines so much that distinctions were often difficult to make. Born in France of Italian stock, Galliano began playing accordion (as his father did) at a young age. He later picked up the trombone, and studied composition at the Academy in Nice; he also fell in love with jazz as a teenager, particularly cool-era Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, and made it his primary focus by the late '60s. Making a living as a jazz accordionist naturally proved difficult; fortunately, after moving to Paris in 1973, he landed a position as conductor, arranger, and composer for Claude Nougaro's orchestra. He remained there until 1976, and went on to work with numerous American and European jazz luminaries, including Chet Baker, Joe Zawinul, Toots Thielemans, Ron Carter, Michel Petrucciani, and Jan Garbarek. After meeting Astor Piazzolla, Galliano refocused on his European heritage, and set about reviving and updating musette, widely considered antiquated at the time. He signed with Dreyfus in 1993, and the label gave him enough exposure to cause a stir first in his home country, then among international jazz and world music fans. Regular recordings followed, some with clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Michel Portal, some with guitarist Jean Marie Ecay, some with his favorite rhythm section of bassist Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark and drummer Daniel Humair (after Jenny-Clark's untimely death, Remi Vignolo took his place). In 2001, Dreyfus released Gallianissimo, a compilation drawing from his seven albums for the label.
- Steve Huey (All Music Guide)
One day Richard Galliano chanced upon his own destiny. " Some years ago seeing me looking preoccupied, Astor Piazzolla suddenly said to me " your image as a jazz accordionist is far too Americanised. It's no good at all. Rediscover your French roots. You need to take up the new musette, just as I invented the tango nuevo ".
The revelation hit him instantly, like a bolt out of the blue. A sudden invitation to turn back the clock and start all over again. Richard Galliano quickly returned to his work with renewed vigour. " Musette ? It wasn't an easy label to go along with. This genre of music was backward-looking, out-dated. It was as if you were to play the accordion in the style of the 1930's, as if Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix never existed. "
Deeply unsettled by what Piazzolla had told him to do, Galliano then decided to take action. To dive straight in and shelve the wonderful diversification and versatility which was his hallmark up to then, to passionately and patiently piece together the complicated puzzle made up of all his greatest influences. Why ? To finally take his instrument, which had been much maligned and condemned by many as old hat, on a journey to scale new heights : " the new musette ". Basically : "the sum total of all my past experiences, the idea of jazz from the heart, and influences from close to home (I live in Paris) and from my Italian roots. But I refused to define my project any further - I hadn't freed the accordion from one ghetto only to imprison it firmly in another. "
This is the true Galliano, pioneer of new sounds, a musician proud of his individuality who with his instrument creates a world of music through sensual poetry, ethereal lyricism and natural swing.
What made Richard Galliano ? At the beginning of his adventure he was undoubtedly influenced by his father Lucien Galliano, an accordionist originally from Piedmont, living in Nice. Naturally very early on Richard was playing the accordion. Then he took up lessons on the trombone, harmony and counterpoint at the academy of music in Nice. " During my teens I slowly stepped away from the music my father played. I played lots of classical music then. "
His first encounter with jazz was listening to " Jordu ". " I copied all the choruses of Clifford Brown, impressed by his tone and his drive, his way of phrasing over the thunderous playing of Max Roach ". Fascinated by this new world Richard was amazed that the accordion had never been part of this musical adventure. " I then started to look into it and one of my teachers Claude Noel, a rebel when it came to the accordion, helped me discover the Italian masters (Fagazza, Volpi, Fancelli) and Americans like Art Van Damme and Ernie Felice who played with Benny Goodman in 1947. I spent my teenage years searching for records by these musicians at a time when all you could find in record shops was Verchuren, Aimable and Yvette Horner. I wanted to play in a different way. And I knew this existed in America and in Brazil. " Throughout the years of his apprenticeship this didn't stop him enduring the irony of the looks everyone gave him who thought the " piano on straps' was most definitely " anti-jazz ", to use the awful phrase coined by Andre Hodeir. " How ironic it was that a few years later my record " New Musette " on 'Label Bleu' would be part of a compilation alongside Mr. Hodeir to help boost his sales. "
Playing jazz at that time, at the end of the 1960's couldn't put food on the table. Richard Galliano devoted his time to preparing for competitions and collecting numerous prizes along the way : Trophee Mondial in 1966 in Valencia and in '67 in Calais , Prix du President de la Republique in '68.
In 1973 came the big decision. He finally made up his mind to take the plunge and go to Paris where he had a stroke of luck. He very quickly made an important contact in the shape of Claude Nougaro. With him jazz is present, it's all around, not a million miles away from java*, close enough to reach out and touch i. " I joined his orchestra at the age of 25 to replace Eddy Louiss. In the early days with Nougaro, Bellonzi, Trussardi and Vander it was rather like my Berkeley School. For three years I played the roles of conductor, arranger and composer (Des Voiliers, Allees des Brouillards). Finding myself leading an orchestra like Nougaro's was an experience which left its mark on me. With him I especially learned the importance of melody. When I now compose at my piano I imagine I am writing a song even if my compositions are mainly instrumental. " Galliano composed for Nougaro again in 1993 " Vie Violence " (Tango Pour Claude ).
It then took " the " meeting with Astor Piazzolla for Galliano to realize that he hadn't gone to Paris to play second fiddle to other people but to invent a kind of music which, although deeply rooted in tradition belonged to him, and him alone. " At the time I didn't know where I was going any more. He guided me and helped me understand the need to retain my identity. Up until he died we were inseparable. He opened my eyes to this profession and gave me the utmost confidence in this instrument which had gone through all the changing fashions, passions, suffered all kinds of rejection. "
It was then in 1991 that Richard Galliano launched his great idea : the " new musette ". " The musette is a word which frightens people. And yet as java*, waltz and ballad all rolled into one it represents in France what the blues is to the United States or the tango is to Argentina. All these kinds of music have one thing in common, in that they emerged from the four corners of the globe at the same time, at the beginning of this century. All three are the exotic fruit of a truly original fusion of human and cultural mixes. The Italians and the French for the musette, the Italians and the Argentinians for the tango, the Africans and Americans for the blues. All these immigrants, these people who have been uprooted, far away from their native countries cried out for a new kind of music, uniting " body and soul ", rage and melancholy. If today I have created " the new musette ", it's because I feel we don't have to play this music like it was played in the 1930's but by combining my strongest influences. Astor Piazzolla, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Claude Debussy ".
At the age of 46 Richard Galliano can today be proud of having achieved his childhood dream. " Otherwise I would have started to grow old filled with remorse ". He successfully reconciled once and for all the world of jazz with a wonderful instrument which for too long had been monopolised by penniless ballroom accordionists.
Prix Django Reinhardt 1992 from the Academy of Jazz : first place in the " new talent " category at Top Jazz 1992 in Italy ahead of Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Steve Coleman. Gold Django in 1994.
As Francis Marmande wrote, " Galliano didn't fall in behind the return to the accordion, he was the forerunner to it ".
So we have seen his bellows rise and his talent soar alongside the best, unique musicians, single and adventurous who like him have seen how to invent their own original musical worlds. " Amongst ourselves we recognised this straight away. Because we are part of the same group, we have the same aspirations. " These musicians, all members of a clan where no restrictions apply, are as follows in no particular order : Chet Baker, Bireli Lagrene, Ron Carter, Enrico Rava, Michel Portal, Pierre Michelot, Jan Garbarek, Michel Petrucciani, Philip Catherine, Didier Lockwood, Toots Thielemans, Eddy Louiss and Joe Zawinul who met him twice in '95 and '96 at the Umbria Jazz Festival. At the end of January 1994, Richard Galliano formed a triumphant trio with Daniel Humair on drums and Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark on double-bass and since then they haven't stopped appearing throughout France and at the leading European festivals (Montreux, Berlin, etc.). In 1993 Richard Galliano decided to sign an exclusive contract with Francis Dreyfus which boosted his career and speeded up his rise to fame on the French and international music scene.
It was then that he met up with Yves Chamberland once again, producer of his first two albums " Spleen " (re-released by Dreyfus Jazz) and " Salsamba " recorded with Chet Baker.
October '93 : " Viaggio " accompanied by Lolo Bellonzi, Pierre Michelot and Bireli lagrene,
April '95 : " Laurita " with an awesome rhythm section (Joey Baron and Palle Danielsson) and star guests (Michel Portal, Toots Thielemans and Didier Lockwood),
October '96 : " New York Tango " where he teamed up with Bireli Lagrene again, George Mraz and Al Foster.
Not forgetting June '96, with the re-release of " Panamanhattan " with Ron carter.
October, 1997 " Blow Up" this duet with Michel Portal was recorded live in Paris in May 1996. This intimate encounter where wooden reeds meet metallic reeds, this meeting of the " squeeze-box " and clarinet truly lives up to all its promises. In superb form, overflowing with the desire to play, the duettists who share the moment, magnificently combine their inspiration. As true performers they avoid the trap of putting on a demonstration and instead let their stunning instrumental virtuosity give way to the most vivid, most liberating musical expression that only dreams are made of. This album features new compositions by Richard Galliano and Michel Portal, as well as some compositions by Astor Piazzolla and Hermeto Pascoal. Best Jazz Album at the 5th classical and jazz Music Awards (France) Boris Vian Prize of the best record (France) registered by a French musician - Academy of Jazz 1997 Best International Jazz Album - Musica Jazz 1997 (Italy) They met for an exceptional concert at the "Theatre des Champs-Elysees" on May 25th, 1998.
On October 20th, 1998 "French Touch" This record is undoubtedly the closest he has come to his vision the soundtrack that best represents his musical ideas and his conception of sharing and exchange. Don't take the title too literally. It is really a profession of faith: 3This is the way I play all the types of music that I love.2 For this new album, Richard Galliano was very determined. In the choice of musicians, the trio format, for example, flexible, free, demanding, denying each player the temptation to hide in the group sound. First recording session in May 98 with Daniel Humair and Jean-Francois Jenny-Clarck and also Michel Portal's participation on a title. Second recording session in June 98 with Andre Ceccarelli and Remi Vignolo and also with Jean-Marie Ecay. "French Touch" suggests original compositions and tributes to Hermeto Pascoal, Michel Legrand and Lucio Dalla.