Your basic French-Italian-Argentine axis is proudly on display on the beautiful new CD Passatori by Richard Galliano & I Solisti dell'Orchestra della Toscana, (Dreyfus Jazz 36601; 60:14). Accordion virtuoso Galliano explains, in the liner notes, his confusion over how to deal with his beloved instrument. A light of inspiration went off when Galliano met Astor Piazzolla in the early '80s, and Piazzolla's signature mix of intelligence, improvisational flair and romantic intensity is evident here, as well as a couple of compositions: "Oblivion" and the substantial "Concerto pour Bandoneon," which closes the album. The rest of the material is by Galliano and follows a similar, yet distinctive path-with compositions focusing more on the musical fabric than his more improvisational or song-geared earlier recordings.
If the accordion's reputation waxes and wanes with the flow of fashion, this much is true: the accordion is one of the world's great, universal instruments, and Galliano is one of its finest living exponents. He plays jazz with fervor and smarts, but has other designs for it, as well. What we hear is a fascinating blend of accordion and a string orchestra that manages to breathe swing and heat into the charts, rather than read the score like ink on a page.