CD Review: Elliot Galvin Trio - Dreamland

Elliot Galvin Trio - Dreamland
(Chaos Collective CC003. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

The jangling toy piano offers a clue. From its impudent, clumsy, pealing intro to this Elliot Galvin Trio debut release, gradually disintegrating into an outrageous, messy sprawl before first track, Ism, finds its rhythmic feet, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary piano trio. In fact, the players – Elliot Galvin (piano), Tom McCredie (bass) and Simon Roth (drums) – appear to be redefining the genre.

Elliot Galvin’s pianistic creativity first came to my attention as sidesman (inadequate description) on Phil Meadows’ sparkling 2013 album, Engines of Creation – and, in the same year, working alongside Laura Jurd at a rip-roaring gig in the sweltering heat of Manchester Jazz Festival. This was a name to keep an eye (and ears) on.

But certainly, don’t expect from Dreamland a chamber jazz experience of hushed minimalism or delectable round-midnight tunes. On a first play-through, there may be times when one might crave a sublime ballad or a new interpretation of a much-loved standard (which, no doubt, the guys could serve up with aplomb) – but that would be to entirely miss the point. Instead, Elliot Galvin chooses more to explore the rhythmic, percussive and dynamic timbres of his eighty-eight keys, equally matched by his bass and drum partners. A recent graduate of Trinity Laban Conservatoire (he's currently finishing off an MA), Galvin’s influences are many, including John Zorn, Errol Garner, John Adams and Ligeti. And the quirky, often humorous approach to the young pianist’s execution of his original compositions indicates something of the spirit of Thelonius Monk and Roland Kirk, plus the adventure of Django Bates – brash, restless, not settling for average. And what a result…

Stuart Brough’s imaginative cut’n'paste ‘frigidaire’ cover art suggests an extreme musical rollercoaster ride (an ‘all-day pass’ reaps huge rewards and, to tell the truth, I currently don’t want to get off). There is musical geniality at the heart of this album, but the entire 45 minutes also bustle with surprises and shocks (listening loud, in the carwash, the fierce crack at the start of the fifth track caused me momentary alarm!). And it’s this combination of innate musicality and creative striving which prompts such a powerfully rich experience.

Take  Blues, for example, whose rollicking twelve-bar opening soon decides that it needs stopping in tracks, giving up and giving way to a far more appealing, lazier and cheekier approach; and Galvin’s dissonant, lurching piano encourages bass and drums to loosen up and join in what sounds like immense fun to play. 13 laughs in the face of any thought of superstitious reticence with driving piano and bass rhythm, sneering ‘mulberry bush’ quotations and impressively sharp percussion.

A charming piano tune, A Major, reveals an uneasy streak, it’s slithering, scampering bass and sinewy piano strings only just kept in check by Roth’s evenly brushed drum kit. And the ’70s high-hat disco-grooving J.J. appears to be treated with suspicion by Galvin’s piano which eventually breaks out into slick soloing that would be at home in any mainstream jazz line-up.

Tom McCredie and Simon Roth maintain such a solid presence that, at times, they sound ‘as one’, and perfectly attuned to Galvin’s intentions. This is illustrated no more clearly than in Azaro, their push-pull rhythms rocking and rolling underneath Galvin’s harpsichord-like chatterings. Lulu is a brilliantly put-together piano solo miniature – heavy railroad-accelerando clusters leading into a lively ragtime/showtime performance employing both keys and strings.

Talking of brevity, a few numbers manage to say what they need to say in a short timeframe: Waiting furrows a dark, heavy groove, McCredie’s arco bass vocalising over percussive piano and drums; spacious and sustained, Four Chords hangs almost reverently in the air; and Periodical Cicada is a quickfire 15-seconds-only track representing (Elliot reveals) the species’ short-but-active lifespan.

There is so much to discover here, especially over repeated listenings, and it is hugely encouraging that we have creative musicians of the calibre of Galvin, McCredie and Roth to contribute so imaginatively to today’s buzzing jazz scene.

Released on the Chaos Collective label (which strives to promote alternatives to ‘conventional’ jazz output) on 10 March 2014, Dreamland is an album to raise the spirits – as well as a smile – and satisfy that ever-present desire to seek out new musical experiences.

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