Musical heir to the great Astor Piazzolla, Richard Galliano is considered one of the most influential accordionists of our time. An inspired soloist and a masterful improviser, this French musician and composer helped the accordion gain respect as an instrument within jazz circles. From pop to classical, Galliano can take on any musical style with ease thanks to his incredibly versatile talent. With his new musette, he revitalized a French music tradition that was widely considered old fashioned.
Richard Galliano was born to an Italian family on December 12, 1950, in Cannes, France. From age four, he studied piano and accordion with his father Lucien, a piano teacher.
As a teenager, he pursued his studies at the Nice Academy under Pierre Cochereau, who taught him the art of harmony, counterpoint and the trombone. During his stay at the Academy, he participated in various music contests and, in 1966 and 1967, won the Trophée Mondial de l'accordéon. In 1969, the Academy acknowledged his academic achievements by awarding him with its top prize for excellence.
In 1973, Galliano left the South of France to find work in Paris, where he met singer Claude Nougaro. Impressed by Galliano's talent, Nougaro appointed him for the following three years as his conductor, arranger and occasional composer.
At the same time, Galliano participated in numerous recording sessions for some of France's biggest artists, including Barbara, Charles Aznavour, Serge Reggiani and Juliette Gréco, to name but a few.
Back to His Roots
After his stint with Nougaro, Galliano went on to collaborate as a solo performer with various world-renowned musicians, such as Chet Baker, Joe Zawinul, Toots Thielemans, Ron Carter, Michel Petrucciani or Jan Garbarek, and as a trio with bassist Jean-François Jenny-Clark and drummer Daniel Humair.
In 1983, Galliano met Astor Piazzolla, who was working on incidental music for a French adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Comédie-Francaise. Galliano was immediately appointed bandoneon soloist by the Argentinean master.
In the 1990's and inspired by Piazzolla's advice, the French accordionist went back to his roots and re-focused on the traditional repertoire he had been overlooking for so long. In 1993, The Richard Galliano Quartet released New Musette on Label bleu records. The album received the Prix Django-Reinhardt, an award given every year to an outstanding French jazz musician by the French Académie du Jazz.
Galliano in America
In 1996, Galliano made his way to New York City to record the album New York Tango with George Mraz, Al Foster and Biréli Lagrène. For this work, Galliano won a Victoire de la musique, the French equivalent of a Grammy.
In 1997, Galliano made a second visit to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal; his first visit, in 1984, was more discreet. However, his first true accolade from the Festival came in 1998, as part of its Invitation series.
That year, Galliano performed five consecutive nights and offered a unique experience each time. The show included guests such as clarinetist Michel Portal or string ensemble I Musici de Montréal, depending on the night.
The 1999 album French Touch featured a good dose of swing and received positive reviews. In 2001, the Gallianissimo compilation showcased the strongest cuts from his previous seven albums with Dreyfus Records. In 2003, Galliano released Piazzolla Forever, a live album entirely dedicated to the work of his mentor.
Back in Montréal
Galliano returned to the Festival in 1999, 2002, 2006 and in 2008, where he presented a project called Tangaria, a stunning musical voyage through the music of Jean-Sébastien Bach, jazz, Venezuelan waltzes and Afro-Uruguayan tangos.
In 2010, Richard Galliano released Bach, a disc entirely dedicated to the music of the famous German composer from the Baroque era. The following year, he launched a tribute album to the film music of Nino Rota.
In 2012, the Frenchman became the first artist to perform at the Maison symphonique de Montréal during the Festival.