An alchemist/anarchist who blends jazz with gritty grunge rock, classical chops, turbo-powered passages, funky backbeats and sweet, salon-like moods, Michael Gallant and his trio celebrate his new release with a surprise-packed performance on Friday, November 6, at 8:00 pm at Middletown's The Buttonwood Tree.
Gallant has been hailed as “a stylistically omnivorous force” for his 2013 debut release, Completely. A trio recording, the album was officially blessed with a four-star rating from Down Beat magazine, which included it in its list of best albums for 2013.
Not the least bit daunted by the dreaded “sophomore jinx,” the fearless Gallant returns with another tradition-defying album called Live Plus One.
His encore disc features Gallant's kaleidoscopic keyboard playing with his regular trio collaborators, electric bassist Dmitry Ishenko, and drummer Rob Mitzner, both of whom join him for The Buttonwood gig. The “plus one” part of the new CD's title refers to the trio's special guest, acoustic bassist Pepe Gonzalez. Sitting-in on four of the album's eleven original tracks, he adds to the colorful tour de force generated by Gallant's piano, Nord Electro 3HP Keyboard and melodica.
Besides his chameleon-like fusion of styles, Gallant's signature effects include his simultaneous playing of the acoustic and Nord Electro keyboards, engaging in conversations with himself through his dual but never dueling keyboards.
“When I work with the trio,” the keyboardist said, “I want to combine the sophistication and rigor of the pianists I love -- people like McCoy, Herbie, Duke, and Bill Evans -- with the raw energy of the grunge rock acts that I grew up with. Melding these influences is a big reason why I play the Nord and piano at the same time. I love how those sounds can melt and fuse with each other, like two sides of the same voice.”
Right from the opening track, a piece called “Returned,” Gallant uses that “melt” and “fuse” effect starting with a lullaby-like mood -- a lull before the storms to come -- that sounds romantic, almost churchly. Then that sense of serenity alters with the entry of eerie electronic effects, melding and melting into a dreamlike ending. In a quick turnaround, the next piece, “Greens,” is soulful and spiky, fun and funky with trills, thrills, and bluesy block chords.
Gallant's multi-faceted musical personality is reflected on pieces like “Completely,” where there's a struggling duality waged between his passion for grunge and the inherently modern/romanticist bent of his piano poetry. For splashy grandeur in the sweeping manner of Chick Corea's “Spain,” Gallant presents “Sandra and Michel,” his homage to the virtuoso Dominican pianist Michel Camilo and his wife Sandra.
A potential show-stopper for The Buttonwood crowd might well be “The Real Maria,” his groove-drenched, funk-fest homage to his late piano teacher, Maria Rodriguez. On the album's grand finale, “Love You Better,” he glides smoothly on a romantic mood, until, without warning, the blithe spirit of the salon suddenly morphs into stomping stride piano and the 100-proof spirits of the saloon.
Even his resume entries march to the beat of a different drummer for this individualist who was born in 1980 in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he began piano lessons at five.
At Columbia University, for example, a class on Japanese doomsday cults inspired him to pursue his undergraduate degree in anthropology, which he received in 2003. After Columbia, he worked for Keyboard magazine, where in 2009 he resigned his full-time editorship to begin his own business, Gallant Music LLC. As a music entrepreneur, he has composed theme music for the world's first iPad interactive graphic novel and wrote the score for the award-winning indie feature drama, “Remedy.”
As a scribe, he's written for the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. State Department, and Down Beat, where he's profiled figures ranging from Dave Brubeck to Billy Joel. Recently, he contributed to the album Winds of Samsara, which won the 2015 Grammy Award for best new age album.
A protean artist, he was commissioned to compose, perform, produce, and record original jazz for the Hollywood film “About Ray,” a transgender-themed drama starring Elle Fanning as a New York teen transitioning from female to male. Naomi Watts portrays the character's single mom, and Susan Sarandon is cast as a lesbian jazz manager/grandmother.
“Jazz is the best label for what we do, but it's only part of the picture,” Gallant said of his trio. Much the same can be said of his diversified accomplishments that show no respect for anything as oppressively limiting and mundane as labels. Tickets at the door, $10.00. Information: (860) 347-4957.
Anat Cohen Concert
Creative Concerts, an ultra-hip, not-for-profit organization, has for years presented premier jazz artists in benefit concerts.
The jazz-loving, idealistic group presents the superb Israeli clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen leading her quartet on Sunday, November 8, at 4:00 pm at Southern Connecticut State University's Lyman Center in New Haven. Proceeds benefit the Connecticut Food Bank and the Food Pantry of Jewish Family Services. Tickets $30.00 at: southernct.edu; reservations, (203) 392-6154, and box office at 501 Crescent Street in New Haven.
The Hot Club of Detroit, which celebrates the Gypsy jazz music of Django Reinhardt in a reverent but relevant manner, swings madly on Sunday, November 8, at 5:00 pm in the prestigious Collomore Concert Series at the Chester Meeting House in Chester.
A Reinhardt disciple, group founder, and lead guitarist, Evan Perri describes HCOD's sound as, “Parisian Cafe 1936, but with better sound equipment.” His caravan cohorts are: Julien Labro, accordion; Ivan Pena, rhythm guitar; and Jordan Schug, bass. Tickets: $24.00, adults; $5.00, students; at firstname.lastname@example.org and (860) 526-5162.
Tones and Textures
Tones and Textures, an exhibition of jazz-inspired works by photographer Maurice D. Robertson and painter Andres Chaparro, opens with an artists' reception on Saturday, November 7, at 5:00 pm at the Windsor Art Center Gallery in Windsor. Noted bassist Nat Reeves leads his trio in concert at 7:30 pm. Information: windsorartcenter.org.
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