REVIEW: Elliot Galvin Trio at the Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall (2018 EFG LJF)

L-R: Elliot Galvin (on toy electric  guitar),
Tom McCredie, Corrie Dick
Phone snap by Rachel Coombes

Elliot Galvin Trio
(Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall. 19 November 2018. EFG London Jazz Festival. Review by Rachel Coombes)

The bright red Yamaha in the Albert Hall’s Elgar Room seemed the perfect emblem for Monday’s gig from Elliot Galvin’s trio (featuring Tom McCredie on bass and Corrie Dick on drums): this group have a knack of convincingly synthesising musical quirkiness with serious, intelligently composed music. For example, they undoubtedly rely more heavily than your average trio on hacked children’s toys salvaged from charity shops.

The toys played a starring role in this Jazz Festival gig, which consisted principally of music from their most recent album The Influencing Machine (Edition). But, as with all of Elliot’s mechanical tinkerings (one can’t help thinking of his home-made micro-tonal melodica) and disparate musical influences (from Ligeti to Deerhoof), their use has an imbedded musical significance within each composition. This is especially so when one gets to know the inspiration behind this particular album: the story of the first documented paranoid schizophrenic, James Tilly-Matthews, who believed that his life was being controlled by a machine.

Having warmed up the audience gently with the soothing harmonics and hymnal progressions of the album’s opening track New Model Army, the trio burst into life with the stomping riffs of Red and Yellow, arguably the biggest ‘crowd pleaser’ on the record. This tune combines everything that the group do best: audacious angular melodies inspired by the classical avant-garde, with muscular grooves that propel the music forward into realms of sheer improvisatory joy. Following the thoughtful atmospheric anthem that is Society of Universal Harmony (which Elliot cheerfully tells us is about a ‘sort of ‘cult 100 years ago who believed that humans communicate via an all-encompassing ethereal mist), Tom McCredie swapped his double bass for the electric guitar, ramping up the texture for a song whose primary influence is the infectious sound of West African High Life. Buried within the polyrhythmic complexity was an ingenious Stravinskian piano melody played with the utmost precision.

A couple of tracks from the group’s first album Dreamland followed – a wittily deconstructed boogie-woogie entitled simply Blues; J.J. which saw Corrie Dick’s slick, propulsive drum beat compete with Elliot’s introverted chord experimentation, and finally the gentle A major, which revealed Corrie Dick’s instinctive flair for texture as well as rhythm. Lobster Cracking, their latest track, brought us back to the bonafide Elliot Galvin experience; that is to say, twists and turns of tempo, and heavy percussive riffs suddenly interrupted by contemplative tendrils of melody. We were then treated to some new material, due for release in December, which was introduced with a pedal point that had a curious whiff of the Beastie Boys Intergalactic about it. These boys really are true masters of genre splicing.

Returning to The Influencing Machine for the concluding section of the set allowed for a final display of riotous white-knuckle jazz with Monster Mind and Boys Club, but also afforded an opportunity for the trio to demonstrate their music at its most delicate. Bees, Dogs and Flies, for which Elliot inserted strips of paper into the piano strings to create a harpsichord-like resonance, is a masterpiece in sensitive jazz-baroque counterpoint, à la Mehldau. Nestled amongst the whacky boisterous flair of most of their set, this unassuming composition was an unexpected highlight of the evening.

LINKS: Interview with Elliot Galvin about The Influencing Machine
CD Review of The Influencing Machine

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