Ray Gallon: Grand Company

Pianist Gallon leads Ron Carter and Lewis Nash in a set of standards and originals that nods to Ellington, Parker, Monk, Silver and more

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Studious and undemonstrative in the best sense of the terms, American pianist Ray Gallon joins two former colleagues for a trio album that’s often self-confessedly eclectic. He and drummer Lewis Nash were members of Ron Carter’s quintet and nonet bands of the late 1980s. Bassist Carter helps form a complementary reunion for an album whose title indicates what the leader – if he sees himself as a leader – thinks of his team-mates.

Gallon is clearly happy with the description of his keyboard style as “a journey through the great lineage of jazz piano from its inception all the way up to its cutting-edge present”. Well, up to a point, rather than up to the here-and-now. Monk is a pervasive influence, without the angularity. The first notes of the standard If I Had You might have heralded a performance of Blue Monk. As it is, there’s a Monk-like resolution, nattily disguised.

It’s no surprise, therefore, to find quotes and near-quotes elsewhere: there’s another Monk one in the opening Drop Me Off In Harlem, a performance imbued with the kind of nostalgia absent from bouncier Ellingtonian originals, and with a tendency to float aimlessly midstream. Parker/Gillespie’s A Night In Tunisia hovers at a distance in the head of Monkey Bars (or “Bar” – there are two versions), a juxtaposition of six-measure Afro-Cuban with waltz time and one of five Gallon compositions of some distinction.

The pianist delights in forebear influences, with nods to Horace Silver (Zombette), Bill Evans (Nardis) and John Lewis, Gallon’s one-time teacher (Acting Up). Pins And Needles stands on the changes of Cry Me A River, Acting Up on those of Lullaby In Rhythm. Contrafacts are homages too. Gallon has a reverential take on Nardis, its arrangement built on a bass figure switching between the chord roots and an open G string. Nash and Carter perform everywhere with cool, almost laconic, probity and sophistication.


Discography
Drop Me Off In Harlem; Acting Up; Zombette; Two Track Mind; Nardis; Pins And Needles; If I Had You; Monkey Bars; Old Folks (50.14)
Gallon (p); Ron Carter (b); Lewis Nash (d). New Jersey, 20 May 2022.
Cellar Music Group CMR 101422