London Jazz Festival: Richard Galliano

Simon Adams reviews Richard Galliano: A Tribute To Nino Rota at the Royal Festival Hall, Thursday 17 November 2011

Photography © John Watson/

Richard GallianoItalian composer Nino Rota was born in Milan on 3 December 1911, 100 years ago this year. His scores for Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and – he worked with that director for almost 30 years – and for the first two of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, are among the movies' finest musical moments. They are now period pieces, so it is fitting that they are now being revisited by such an instrument of nostalgia as the accordion. Try as I might to love it, there is something faintly bizarre about the instrument, requiring its performer to stand hunch-shouldered against its great ungainly weight while prodding and squeezing out its vaguely asthmatic notes. Richard Galliano is a master of the machine, and in the first brief half of this London Jazz Festival set, gave us a solo masterclass in how to play it well. Rapid right-hand glissandi set against resonant single bass notes from the left hand were augmented by waves of noise as the bellows were manipulated in and out. At times subtle, at others slightly ridiculous, it was nevertheless consistently impressive.

The second set brought out the band, with trumpeter Dave Douglas a bright, blaring contrast to the soupier textures of the accordion. His clarity and precision shone through, as well as his consistently humorous take on proceedings. John Surman stuck to soprano sax throughout, his sweet sound lost somewhat in the mix, while bassist Boris Kozlov flourished in the surroundings. Only drummer Clarence Penn seemed somewhat overawed, requiring perhaps a more demanding setting. Familiar themes came and went – I'm no film buff and Galliano has no English – so you will have to trust me when I say that Rota's music was well served by this fine and dedicated group.

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