Richard Galliano (button accordion), John Surman (soprano saxophone), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Boris Kozlov (double bass) & Clarence Penn (drums)
Reviewed by: Julian Maynard-Smith
Reviewed: 17 November, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Film scores played on accordion? That’s what we got for the entire first set of this tribute to Nino Rota, the Italian composer best known for his iconic scores for The Godfather and the films of Fellini. A brave move, but Richard Galliano’s dazzling playing carried it off. Throwing his whole body into the music, he traversed moods that ranged from sadness to joyful dancing, squeezing out timbres way beyond the clichés of ‘Parisian café musette’: from cow-like lowing to piccolo twittering, via playful wheezing.
In the second set, the quintet skilfully evoked the original orchestration. At times, John Surman’s soprano sax sounded like an extension of the accordion (recalling Galliano’s renowned duos with Michel Portal), and Dave Douglas’s trumpet captured well the aching melancholy of ‘The Godfather Waltz’. Then from sadness to circus marches with the relentlessly cheerful Il Circo Giraffa, a whirligig of a tune that the band played ever-faster, regularly stopping on a heartbeat for dramatic pauses. And what a rhythm section! Boris Kozlov’s immaculate bass solo was full of fine bowing (sadly, a rarity in jazz bass-playing) and Clarence Penn played an equally imaginative drum solo, mixing mallets and sticks, and adding occasional tinkling runs on bar chimes.