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Richard Galliano: Ruby, My Dear

Certain instruments have yet to lodge themselves in the jazz mainstream, but that hasn’t stopped intrepid virtuosos from distinguishing themselves on these overlooked musical tools. As Toots Thielemans is to the chromatic harmonica, Richard Galliano is to the accordion: a master improviser who has further legitimized an orphan instrument.

Supported on this live recording in grand style by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Clarence Penn, the French accordionist displays his inclusive vision interpreting jazz standards by Thelonious Monk and Oscar Pettiford, adapting Eric Satie’s haunting “Gnossienne No.1” and the popular Spanish bolero “Historia de un Amor” while also finding room for a handful of his own flavorful originals. A predominant flavor, no surprise, is that of the French musette, the time-honored sound of the Gallic music hall. Galliano’s sweeping tones evoke an atmospheric nostalgia while rejecting Gay Paree corn through the rigor and virtuosic flair of his extraordinary playing. (His driving solo on “Waltz for Nicky ” has all the intensity of a Jimmy Smith rave-up.)

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