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Elliot Galvin
Live In Paris

by Howard Lawes




Elliot Galvin Live in Paris


The album Live In Paris by Elliot Galvin, released on Edition Records is improvised solo piano, each piece is freely extemporised on the spot.


A video extract from the performance.





A programme broadcast on Radio 3 (13 November 2016) had Tom Service considering the subject of musical improvisation and demonstrated that many types of music from ancient Indian ragas through the classical music of JS Bach, Mozart and Stockhausen; the jazz of Lennie Tristano, John Zorn and Derek Bailey, and the rock music of Jimi Hendrix involve improvisation.  Some of this music may Elliot Galvin Live In Paris albumbe termed 'free improvisation' where every aspect of music (often defined as pitch, note duration, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture (melody, rhythm and harmony) and structure) is varied according to the whim of the performer, or 'idiomatic improvisation' where the music retains a link to the body of the piece or style of music.  In classical music, solos which included improvisation were called 'cadenzas' and one of the most famous of these is a harpsichord solo in JS Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.5, another by Mozart has been recorded by jazz pianists Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea.

Elliot Galvin began improvising as a primary school pupil and in conversation with Howard Lawes talked about music education, recent projects and his 2018 solo performance at Fondation Louis Vuitton that has been released as an album by Edition Records called Live In Paris.  Elliot began playing a piano at about age 7 and progressed through a couple of classical grades before losing interest in this particular avenue and moved into improvisation and jazz. He was lucky that a youth jazz ensemble operated in his local area and he pays tribute to those organisations that provide help for aspiring young jazz musicians.  After studying at Junior Trinity he gained a place at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, graduating in 2014 after completing a BMus Jazz and MMus Composition and having won the 2013 Gold Medal Award, which celebrates outstanding young musicians.  Elliot is quoted on the Trinity Laban website paying tribute to his alma mater  -  "Trinity Laban provided a thriving creative environment that profoundly shaped me as a musician. There was a wealth of inspirational tutors and peers who guided and influenced me into becoming the musician I am today".



Here's a video of Elliot's solo performance at Trinity Laban Gold Medal Competition in 2014.




Elliot didn't wait until graduating before launching into the music industry so that in 2012, together with fellow students Laura Jurd and Corrie Dick, he formed the Chaos Collective, a jazz orchestra and record label. He was also part of the London Sound Painting Orchestra set up by Diego Gymes, a  large ensemble of musicians and dancers who improvise by following hand signals from a conductor.  Looking at the personnel list of these two groups reads like a 'who's who' of young musicians who have gone on to become successful artists in the many different bands that have revitalised the London jazz scene. 


The London Sound Painting Orchestra playing in 2012. All you hear is collectively improvised on the spot, using Soundpainting, a live composition sign language created by Walter Thompson in the 1970's.





Elliot's first album, Dreamland, as leader of the Elliot Galvin Trio with Tom McCredie on double bass and Simon Roth on drums, was released in 2014 on the Chaos Collective label but he had already performed on Laura Jurd's album Landing Ground released in 2012 and Island Mentality by the Chaos Orchestra released in 2014.  In 2013 Elliot had won the Musicians' Benevolent Fund Development Prize and in 2014, he received the European Young Artists' Jazz Award with his trio at the Burghausen Jazz Festival, fully justifying the rave reviews received for Dreamland.  



Elliot Galvin Trio

Elliot Galvin Trio - TomMcCredie, Simon Roth, Elliot Galvin




A short video with Elliot, Tom McCredie and drummer Simon Roth introducing Dreamland.





Elliot Galvin is not a musician without ambition and spurred on by these successes he recorded his second album Punch in the awesome Berlin Funkhaus, a complex studio facility located along The Spree river in the Köpenick district a little away from the centre of the city, boasting a vast area of over 13 hectares. It is said to be one of the largest multi-studio facilities in the world. The music in Punch is full of dark allegory as alluded to in the track Mack The Knife by Bertold Brecht and some of the negative aspects of human nature typified by 'Punch and Judy'. On top of this, the versatile Galvin plays piano, kalimba, microtonal melodicas, accordion, cassette player and stylophone. 


Blop from the album Punch.





The next album from the Elliot Galvin Trio, this time with Corrie Dick on drums, is called The Influencing Machine, the title derived from a book of the same name by Mike Jay that recounts the story of a double agent, James Tilly-Matthews, during a time when Napoleon rose to power and French hegemony extended over much of Europe. James Tilly-Matthews suffered from paranoid schizophrenia believing his mind to be controlled by a machine.  The great changes that occurred in the UK and Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries are hinted at by some of the track titles and are perhaps analogous with political events in modern times.  However, as Elliot admits, it's easy to get bogged down in politics and protest while neglecting the good things such as the human being's ability to be endlessly and beautifully creative.



Planet Ping Pong from the album The Influencing Machine.






Elliot does admit to getting 'bogged down' with electronics so that production of the next album, Modern Times, was a considerable divergence. It was recorded direct to vinyl using acoustic instruments and is perhaps ironic as the Charlie Chaplin 1936 film Modern Times dealt with one man's struggle to come to terms with a modern, industrialised world.  The album was recorded at a studio in Haarlem, The Netherlands using the largest vinyl pressing plant in Europe, again with Tom McCredie and Corrie Dick.  Elliot commented on the recording experience "You are presenting ‘you’, there’s nowhere to hide, making music with people you trust deeply is very important and it’s even more important when making music like this. Me, Tom and Corrie have built up a really deep musical relationship over the years of playing together, and I think this is very present on this record".


Listen to Ghosts from Modern Times.






Elliot Galvin Binker Golding Ex Nihilo



As well as playing solo and in a trio Elliot Galvin has played with several other bands, such as Laura Jurd's Dinosaur, with Mark Lockheart, Led Bib, Rob Cope and Ydivide but perhaps one of his most interesting recent projects is a duo with Binker Golding on tenor saxophone that has resulted in the album Ex Nihilio meaning 'from nothing'.  Luke Seabright in All About Jazz describes the album as "exactly what you want from the best experimental jazz", but as Golding suggests in an interview with Selwyn Harris in Jazzwise Magazine their experimental music will only be persevered with by listeners because both he and Elliot Galvin have sufficient reputation for people to trust them to produce something worth listening to a second or third time (click on the picture to listen).  Certainly, unless you speak Latin the track titles won't help! Elliot mentions that they led to an interesting conversation with a professor of Latin after one of his gigs.





Elliot Galvin performed Live In Paris on solo piano in 2018 in the Auditorium at the Frank Gehry designed Fondation Louis Vuitton, "a breathtaking space like the prow of a ship, flooded with light with expansive views of the environment". 

The performance was entirely improvised on the spot with Elliot having little, if anything, in the way of a plan before the event. Certainly the album track titles came afterwards and Elliot recalls that the scariest part of the performance was when he spoke the introduction in French. 


Fondation auditorium




It is surely impossible for Elliot Galvin not to have been inspired by the building itself, Gehry himself said "To reflect our constantly changing world, we wanted to create a building that would evolve according to the time and the light in order to give the impression of something ephemeral and continually changing." If Elliot thought there was nowhere to hide at the recording studio in Haarlem he was surely even more exposed in Paris and it must take amazing guts and musicianship to perform in such a gladiatorial arena.






Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris



As discussed earlier, jazz and improvised music are not synonymous and the music on this album has a lot more in common with contemporary classical music than straight forward jazz - one of the tracks For J.S. clearly harks back to Bach. While Gehry's building might give the impression of being ephemeral, freely improvised music is totally ephemeral and so an entirely appropriate art form to be presented there.  The fact that the music has been recorded removes that property and following on from Binker Golding's view, listeners to the recording may get more from the music by listening more than once, an opportunity that those at the original performance have been denied. 


Elliot playing Broken Windows from the Paris performance.




There is an age-old adage of uncertain origin that says "writing about music is like dancing about architecture".  It is almost certain that a dance about Fondation Louis Vuitton would be wonderful, and rest assured that the music played there by Elliot Galvin was of the same standard, but it's great to be able to hear it more than once. Other reviewers have compared Galvin to Django Bates, Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor and all are valid comparisons but Elliot Galvin himself pays tribute to Liam Noble who was his tutor through much of his time at Trinity Laban.  Elliot is a brilliant musician and a hugely imaginative improvisor, Liam Noble must be smiling every time he hears him. Who knows what more great things Elliot will achieve - we look forward to finding that out. 


Click here for Elliot Galvin's website. Click here for details and samples of the Live In Paris album.


Elliot Galvin Live In Paris album



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