Galliano accomplishes the feat of allowing the sound to float so lightly and airily that one thinks of a French café terrace on a spring day as winter’s last snowflakes whirl around. BERLINER MORGENPOST
Few musicians are capable of reinvigorating an instrument and entire style of music, bringing it to the attention of countless new listeners. Richard Galliano has achieved this for the accordion and for the attendant French musette tradition: as a partner to the French chanson stars of the 1970s, a pioneer of the jazz accordion, and as creator of his own style, “New Musette”. For decades a regular fixture of major international jazz festivals, the accordion and bandoneon player now often performs in concert halls. Richard Galliano regularly appears as a soloist with orchestras and with string quartets and quintets, performing his own compositions, new interpretations of classical pieces, and pieces by his mentor and friend Astor Piazzolla. He has performed with such renowned ensembles as the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Orchestre National de Lyon, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and Zürich Chamber Orchestra.
Born in 1959 in Cannes with Italian ancestry, Richard Galliano was four years old when he began learning the instrument from his father, the accordionist Lucien Galliano. Together, they published a prize-winning teaching method for the accordion. Whilst still a teenager, he began his music studies at the Conservatory of Nice, including music theory and trombone, finding success at various competitions. Richard Galliano first discovered jazz when he was about 14 years old and was one of the first to carry this style over to the accordion. In 1973 in Paris he met Claude Nougaro, who invited the young musician to be arranger and conductor of his group. The sound of Richard Galliano’s accordion appears on countless records of popular French artists of the period, including Barbara, Charles Aznavour and Juliette Gréco. At the same time, he maintained his connections to jazz, performing throughout the 1980s with figures such as Chet Baker, Toots Thielemanns and Ron Carter.
His turn to an entirely new musical direction was inspired by Astor Piazzolla. In 1983, Richard Galliano was solo bandoneon player in a theatre project alongside Piazzolla, the creator of Tango Nuevo. Astor Piazzolla encouraged him to look to his musical roots, thus spurring the creation of “New Musette”. Released in 1991, the album of the same name presented his new jazz-inspired interpretation of French musette in quartet arrangement and became a great success, winning the renowned Prix Django Reinhardt. A series of important albums followed, among them New York Tango with George Mraz, Al Foster and Biréli Lagrène, which was awarded the Victoire de la Musique, and the 1997 release Blow Up, which was recorded with Michel Portal. He regularly appeared in a trio with Daniel Humair and Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark, and later with Clarence Penn and Larry Grenadier in New York. In addition, he has repeatedly performed with musicians such as Jan Garbarek, Martial Solal, Hermeto Pascoal, Gary Burton, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Charlie Haden and Wynton Marsalis.
Since the late 1990s, he has mostly performed his own compositions and music by Astor Piazzolla in arrangements for orchestra and chamber ensembles, documented in CD recordings such as 2003’s Piazzolla Forever. Since 2010, he has released four CDs on Deutsche Grammophon, including new interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach with a classically trained sextet, a recording of Nina Rota’s film scores with a quartet featuring trumpeter Dave Douglas, and albums of music by Vivaldi and Mozart, arranged for sextet. In October 2017 he released the CD Aria with the organist Thierry Escaich and in April 2019 his latest solo album, The Tokyo Concert, both on Jade Music.
This season's highlight is the premiere of his oratorio Les Chemins Noirs for accordion, double bass, spoken word, and choir at the Seine Musicale in Paris in January 2020.
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