Christoph Gallio

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Christoph Gallio is a jazz saxophonist (alto and soprano) based in Switzerland. Very active in Europe since the 1980s, he remains pretty much unknown to American ears, even though his trio, Day &…
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Christoph Gallio is a jazz saxophonist (alto and soprano) based in Switzerland. Very active in Europe since the 1980s, he remains pretty much unknown to American ears, even though his trio, Day & Taxi, toured the U.S. a couple of times. He performs and writes a wide range of music, from the sleek and elegant modern jazz of the aforementioned group to free improv (with Ensemble Uncontrolled) and Steve Lacy-inspired song cycles. He has recorded for Leo, Slam, Unit, and his own label, Percaso.

Gallio (born in 1957) is self-taught on the saxophone. At age 20, he enrolled in the Höhere Schule für Gestaltung, an art school in Basel. He also studied with Iwan Roth at the Basel Conservatory. His professional career started at the same time. His first experiences include Oskar Giger's Pig Band; the Gulli Group (which had for drummer a young Günter Müller); the WIM Orchestra (with Irène Schweizer and Norbert Möslang); and Tiegel, a trio with pianist Urs Voerkel and bassist Peter K. Frey. The latter project lasted until 1983 and gave the saxophonist a chance to crisscross Switzerland. He also began to collaborate with dancers around the same time, something he would continue to do throughout his career.

In 1986, Gallio incepted his own record label, Percaso, which he continued to manage on and off. That year, he released his first albums on cassette, documenting his solo work, especially a piece titled "Me and My Fishes," devised with computer technician Max Spielmann in which he duets with goldfishes (released on Fishland). The same year, he performed with Stephan Wittwer and Alfred Zimmerlin in Oktett. In 1987, he came to New York and worked with a number of the key avant-garde artists of the city (Tom Cora, Zeena Parkins, etc.) and met keyboardist Matthew Ostrowski. With Zimmerlin and Ostrowski, he wrote and recorded Certainty Sympathy (1988, Percaso). The three toured Europe and the U.S. for four years and recorded a second album, Birds & Dogs.

In 1989, Gallio went to Paris to study with leading avant-garde saxophonist Steve Lacy. The trio he formed afterwards, Day & Taxi, would be very much influenced by his elegance. The early '90s saw him perform with Fred Frith and Phil Minton (as Bread for Butter and Deatho Knocko, with the addition of Hans Koch) and in a duet with Japanese drummer Takashi Kazamaki, with whom he later formed Ensemble Uncontrolled.

In the second half of the '90s, Gallio focused his energies on Day & Taxi, but also wrote beautiful song cycles. Cars & Variations/High Desert Songs was interpreted by Irene Aebi. À Gertrude Stein featured Ellen Christi. Mösiöblö (À Robert Filliou), with mezzo-soprano Sarah Maurer, came out in 2001 to critical acclaim.