Elliot Galvin Trio Dreamland CD Launch
( The Forge, Camden, 30th January 2014. Review by Alison Bentley)
Towards the end of the gig, pianist and composer Elliot Galvin took what looked like the contents of a builder’s van out of the grand piano – blocks, pieces of metal- to the audience’s delight. It seemed the kind of creatively absurd gesture that Galvin’s favourite Dadaists would have approved of. Canon, the final piece, wove together long piano lines, before reprising fragments of all the gig’s tunes- over a rocky riff. Galvin’s début CD is Dreamland (Chaos Collective CC003) and it was as if the surreal images of a dream had been made into music. Many piano trios use electronics to create unusual sounds, but with this trio, all the sounds came from the instruments themselves. Drummer Simon Roth even used a socket set, not to tune his engine, but as ‘tuned spanners’ on the snare.
Galvin himself was like a young Django Bates in his energy, brilliance and gleeful love of complexity. Galvin had composed all the pieces, veering wonderfully between modern jazz, modern Classical music and free improv in the space of a few minutes. Ism began with a toy piano (sounding like an African thumb piano), then a light, percussive grand piano over the rich sound of Tom McCredie‘s loping bass. The fast boogie woogie of Blues sped up and slowed down spasmodically, before settling into a slower bluesy Ellingtonian section (Galvin also admires Ellington’s compositions), over Roth’s subtly-swung brushwork. Danse Macabre was tragi-comic; a jerky dance of death with rattling skeleton rimshots. There were sweet piano triads over the dark rumble of the bass, until the wild flailing chords finally collapsed. The meditative Four Chords emerged from the clamour, an echo, perhaps, of the work of ambient pianist Craig Taborn, who’s influenced Galvin. The trio exploded into 13 (in 13/8, naturally).
Galvin’s Ligeti-like fast arpeggios scuttled over Roth’s free drums and bells. Galvin’s fingers played cat-and-mouse along the keyboard, pouncing mischievously on to the restless drum ‘n’ bass feel, with its slapped double bass- and excellent drum solo.
Galvin reveres John Zorn, and the controlled anarchy of Waiting and Hurdy Gurdy had Zorn elements. Waiting had a wild Balkan energy while Hurdy Gurdy piled up bluesy notes, only to knock them down again like a child’s bricks- over a funk beat. J.J.‘s driving funky groove had strutting bass lines, with Neil Cowley-like rocky triads moving in and out of phase, before an Afro Latin section. Apollo 17 and Azaro were atmospheric, using a feral range of distorted sounds. Apollo 17 had stormy drums and dripping piano notes. At one point, Galvin played the keys with one hand while sliding the other along the piano strings, as if pulling the notes from under our feet- like an acoustic version of Germany’s Trio Elf. A Major was a beautiful, winsome piece, but as the notes became more wayward, the overtones of Schumann and Satie became more like Abdullah Ibrahim and Monk. Lulu, for solo piano, made passing reference to Lulu’s Back in Town, recalling Galvin’s mentor Liam Noble’s discordant way of deconstructing a standard. Galvin moved from an Art Tatum-like richness into off-kilter montunos, his extraordinary piano skills making the audience laugh and applaud with sheer pleasure.
Galvin’s music is saturated with the history of jazz piano, as well as modern Classical music, and he’s found like-minded musicians with the technical expertise, humour and love of musical experiment to bring it all to life.