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Richard Galliano

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Richard Galliano
is the accordion guru.  With his incredible hands and his musical feeling the instrument has reached a level of expression and sound never before heard, catching the attention of audiences and the best musicians in the world.   Richard Galliano was born in Le Cannet, France, on December 12, 1950.
He was drawn to music at an early age, starting with the accordion at 4, influenced by his father Lucien, an accordionist originally from Italy, living in Nice.
After a long and intense period of study (he took up lessons on the trombone, harmony and counterpoint at the Academy of Music in Nice), at 14, in a search to expand his ideas on the accordion he began listening to jazz and heard on records the great trumpet player Clifford Brown. "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.
"Then I 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 (Fugazza, Volpi, Fancelli) and the 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 only traditional accordionists.
I wanted to play in a different way. And I knew this existed in the States and in Brazil. After years of study and apprenticeship, in 1973 came the big decision. He finally made up his mind to take the plunge and go to Paris where he had a strock of luck. He very quickly made an important contact in the shape of famous singer Claude Nougaro. For threee years he played the roles of conductor, arranger and composer with that orchestra. "It was rather like my Berklee School; 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 compose at my piano now I imagine I am writing a song even if my compositions are mainly instrumental".
After Nougaro an important meeting with the great Astor Piazzolla. With Piazzolla, Galliano realized that he hadn't gone to Paris to play second fiddle to other people, but to invent a kind of music which, altough deeply rooted in tradition belonged to him, and him alone. And Piazzolla told Galliano: "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".
A sudden invitation to turn back the clock and start all over again. "Musette? It wasn't an easy label to go along with. The genre of music was backward-looking, outdated. It was as if you were to play accordion in the style of the 1930's, as if Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix never existed. Astor Piazzolla guided me and helped me understand the need to retain my identity. Up until he died we were inseparable. He opened my eyes and gave me the utmost confidence in this instrument which had gone through all the changing fashions, suffered all kinds of rejection.
Today, at the age of 53, Richard Galliano can be proud. 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.
Richard Galliano, direct heir to Astor Piazzolla, interprets, composes and orchestrates music which seems to casually mix reminiscences of swing, marked echoes of tango, French bistro waltzes, Bill Evans ballads, Keith Jarrett improvisations and the afro-american lessons of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, all is performed with a pleasing chromatic taste which goes back to best French tradition from Couperin to Debussy and above all to Ravel. Richards greatest merit is therefore originality; synthesized all these experiences into a new European music made up of jazz improvisation and a great deal of Mediterranean tradition.
His second strenght is his use of the accordion (and the bandonéon), awkward instruments which have always had a difficult life in jazz and cultivated music. For years, the accordion was relegated to the lowest ranks of popular music, a pity for its typical colour of melancholy would lend itself wonderfully to creating atmospheres of blues. In the hands of Galliano the popular accordion first acquires the polychromy of an orchestra, and then the collected tone of chamber-like intimism.
Galliano's record and concert collaborations are as follows in no particular order. He performed solo and as a guest in Joe Zawinul's group at Umbria Jazz Winter '95 and Umbria Jazz '96 and then in the two editions of U.J. Winter first in a duo with Charlie Haden and then with the New York Tango Quartet, in both cases arousing unanimous enthusiastic public and critical acclaim.
He has taken part in the last three editions of the Montreal Jazz festival; in '97 solo, in '98 five concerts with 5 different projects and in '99 in a trio with George Mraz and Al Foster.
Other collaborations: Juliette Greco, Charles Aznavour, Ron Carter, Chet Baker, Enrico Rava, Martial Solal, Miroslav Vitous, Trilok Gurtu, Jan Garbarek, Michel Petrucciani, Michel Portal, Toots Thielemans.
He has participated in numerous other international festivals including Antibes, Montreux, Vienna, S.Francisco, North Sea, Melbourne, Tokio, Peking and Shanghai.

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