Richard Galliano: Sentimentale

If Richard Galliano is jazz’s greatest accordionist, that’s largely because the French squeezebox virtuoso has had minimal competition. But having the field to himself hasn’t stopped Galliano from casting an ever-wider net, vacuuming up genres over the decades from classical to French folk forms to Italian film music to, especially, Astor Piazzolla’s tangos. Sentimentale is Galliano’s purest jazz statement in some time, but it isn’t so much a repudiation of all that experimentalism and worldliness as a reminder of just how serious a jazzman he is.

Galliano has put together a particularly supportive cast, including the outstanding pianist Tamir Hendelman (who also arranged most of the recording) and the American guitarist Anthony Wilson, whose accompaniment is unobtrusive but substantial and whose solos run from sleek to skittish to courageous. Coming out of Galliano’s flute-like frolic, Wilson’s mimicking of a sitar tone on Coltrane’s “Naima” is so spot-on you’ll wish every cover of the tune went that route. The three-way accordion-piano-guitar conversation on Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” is both graceful and cunning.

When he leads, Galliano is a consistently joyous listen. Ivan Lins’ “The Island” is taken at a mostly lazy pace through its first half, the accordionist biding his time, enjoying the company. When he and Wilson begin to goose one another midway through, you barely notice the acceleration until drummer Mauricio Zottarelli lets out a big gasp of a roll. Only two Galliano originals break up a program that also includes music by Chick Corea, Horace Silver and Dave Grusin/Lee Ritenour. “Ballade Pour Marion,” a song Galliano’s recorded before, illustrates his ceaseless inventiveness, improvisational acumen and collaborative skills while “Lili,” the closer, written for his granddaughter, manages to squeeze an orchestra’s worth of lushness out of nothing more than accordion and guitar.