Elliot Galvin and his band performed a spectacular array of modern jazz for the university last Wednesday.
Each of the compositions bore something extra to it with respect to its genre and style – nothing was ‘just’ jazz. ‘Dance Macabre’ takes the original Saint-Saëns melody and “messes around with it”, as Galvin put it; ‘A Major’ is at first a pleasant, relaxing song that made me think of Elton John’s The Diving Board; ‘Lulu’ is a mix of ragtime, jaunty jazz and classical piano; and ‘Blues’ begins with real blues, but takes that apart too! A particularly amusing song was ‘Periodical Cicada’, named after an insect that spends up to seventeen years of its life underground before coming up to “find a partner… and then it dies”, as Galvin informed us.
Galvin was the leading member both in name and performance. His delivery was eccentric and difficult to pin down. In the space of seconds, Galvin could go from near-silent melodies to rampant, dissonant crashes, fiery and fast solos, and the odd glissando. A lot of his time on stage was spent inside the piano, placing and removing all sorts of little toys and things inside. He played with them to deftly create new sounds, much like antique or honkytonk pianos, or even genuine string instruments, and Galvin was a master of combining them to find the perfect sound for each composition. Like on the keys, sometimes Galvin was gentle and at other times he attacked the strings with grand swipes. He also played briefly an accordion.
Tom McCredie, on the double bass, fitted for much of his performance the role of the quiet bassist, not straying from the orthodox and keeping the tempo alongside the drummer. Suddenly though, he would break into energetic, violent but downright fantastic playing. He was also able to manipulate his double bass with careful slapping, to create percussive sounds as the drummer elaborated in particular sections, or high and quick string sounds to imitate other string instruments. Listen to the start of ‘Apollo 17’ for some of this.
At the drum kit, Simon Roth (a University of York alumnus) kept the tempo flawlessly, not distracted by the obscure time signatures and the cross-tempo playing of Galvin and McCredie. When things were getting musically heated, with all three musicians wildly experimenting and fighting, Roth always brought everyone into new sections at the right time and place. Like Galvin, Roth had his own toys beside a variety of sticks, adding to the more minimalist or atonal pieces with bells and little cymbals.
All of the performers had the skills and demonstrated them – there were plenty of cadenzas in which we were treated to the musical ability and innovation of each member. All in all I greatly enjoyed the Elliot Galvin Trio’s concert.
Oh, by the way, Mr. Galvin: I bought your trio’s CD afterwards. It’s rather good.