I have been looking forward to this album since I heard them play these pieces at a live gig – Punch, the second album by this trio, does not disappoint!
The Trio are Elliot Galvin (piano, karimba, melodicas, accordion, stylophone and tape recorder), Tom McCredie (double-bass) and Simon Roth (drums, percussion and glockenspiel). The music is largely Galvin’s own, strictly composed and often in multiple parts, it feels that many pieces are inspired by the sounds of the eclectic range of instruments that he plays.
Punch and Judy is a musical piece that overlays the telling of the aforesaid street puppet show, narrated by audio clips from a vintage recording “played” live on a tape recorder. The lovely Hurdy Gurdy moves through a number of distinct short movements - chaotic opening piano is brought under control when double-bass and drums join in for a heavily syncopated stage, then extended arpeggios speeding up to train-like proportions until piano is replaced by charismatic accordion for a rhythmic end-piece.
McCredie’s bowed bass opens Tipu’s Tiger and provides a linking theme while the piece transforms through stages. Galvin’s karimba, overlain by Roth’s glockenspiel is a wonderful combination. This is a beautiful piece, much calmer and sedate than most, my favourite track of the album.
After a short opening on stylophone, Blop settles down to a heavily syncopated piece led by Elliot’s own microtonal melodica(s) (a surprisingly versatile sound, somewhere between accordion and harmonica, with touches of blaring car-horn). Lions has a unique pizzicato piano sound (produced apparently, by placing duct tape on the strings) that works incredibly well. At times light-hearted and self-mocking, at others a more traditional jazz sound.
McCredie’s dirge-like bass underpins 1666 – almost a requiem for the year of London’s great fire, plague and war with the Dutch. Mack The Knife - you know the tune? Now think darker…and a little schizophrenic perhaps? Simon Roth occasionally interrupts his drumming to play glockenspiel Jekyll to the Hyde of Galvin’s piano.
The title of Polari is another reference to the Punch and Judy theme as it refers to the underground jargon used by the performers (and others of the time who wished to disguise their conversations from the authorities). A frenetic piece with lively playing on all parts. Cosy is a perfect title for this piece whose recurring whistling melody invokes thoughts of some Toy Story tune but develops a full bodied jazzy sound
While Galvin’s composition and playing is the centrepiece of the trio, it is greatly enhanced by the input from both McCredie’s thoughtful bass and Roth’s sympathetic percussions. The trio play extremely well together, each empathically supporting the total sound without dominating over each other. Typically the playing is dynamic and heavily syncopated.
The complexity of the pieces means that appreciation and enjoyment improves with each listening.
This album may not be to everyone’s taste – but I love it.