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January/February 2005

Michel Portal/Richard Galliano
Concerts
Dreyfus Records

One would never suspect after hearing Concerts (Dreyfus) that Michel Portal was a pioneer of free jazz in France. Because these 14 tracks, extracted from three European duo concerts with accordionist Richard Galliano between May 1999 and July 2003, are mostly modern mainstream in their overall approach, albeit spiced on occasion with a free-sounding passage. Where they mostly differ from the normal mainstream offering is in their instrumentation - the accordion serves as the entire rhythmic section while Portal utilizes clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, the concertino-like bandoneon and jazzophones as well as in their repertoire and their seemingly telepathic understanding of what the other is about to do. Such an empathetic relationship leads to jointly improvised passages so right they could pass for well-crafted composition. In place of jazz or pop standards, exotic, often dancelike pieces by composers such as the great tango artist Astor Piazzolla and noted Brazilian composer/performer Hermeto Pascoal provide the setting for the two performers’ own originals, with titles like "Tango Pour Claude" (Galliano) and "Mozambique" (Portal). Both men are creative virtuosos and both can swing furiously.

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William Claxton

Michel Portal and Richard Galliano

Originally published in January/February 2005
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