A fascinating amalgam of personalities and styles, this 1996 release from Franco-Italian accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano achieves a wholly original musical synthesis. Bracketed by an opening track from tango ace Astor Piazzolla and a concluding piece from Jaco Pastorius, the session finds the common ground in such seemingly disparate choices. With nine Galliano originals in between, the result is a cohesive, uncompromising set of performances and an essential work in the leader's discography. The players with Galliano are a combination of Europeans and Americans equally at home in jazz and European folk music. Erstwhile Django Reinhardt prodigy Bireli Lagrene is a key contributor. Having emerged from his mentor's shadow in the late '80s, Lagrene reveals the range of his spectacular talents as a simpatico accompanist, a precise and articulate ensemble player, and a spellbinding soloist. Underscoring his evolution from his gypsy roots, Lagrene, on Galliano's "To Django," actually plays in a Wes Montgomery style or, more accurately, in the style of two or three Wes Montgomerys or Montgomery via Lenny Breau. Czech bassist George Mraz blends with and complements Lagrene so that the pair operates as an actual string section, not merely as bass and guitar. This stellar roster of talent is rounded out by modern drum legend Al Foster, who brings power, subtlety, and a jazz pulse to swing the whole affair. Throughout, the leader is a source -- as a writer, player, and soloist -- of romantic melodies, bright and melancholy, as well as sheer exuberance and technical dazzle, as he taps into the full polyphonic power of his accordion. Listeners who have yet to venture into jazz accordion will find a compelling introduction to the instrument with this set.
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AllMusic Review by Jim Todd