The final track on this album is called Cosy and although that title doesn’t quite encapsulate the mood of the closing piece it is nevertheless a kind gesture from Galvin (on a variety of things with keys), Tom McCredie (double bass) and Simon Roth (drums and percussion) after the dislocation, the unsettlement and sometimes downright scariness the listener has shared with them on the preceding nine tunes.
Punch opens with the title character and his partner, Judy, via a cassette recording of a Punch And Judy show in front of a group of participating children, its dark undercurrents where knockabout puppetry dramatises child abuse heightened by the trio’s performance before the band interlaces punched interjections with the theatrical recording.
Mack The Knife – the only non-original – also has its dark side well and truly restored, any carnival black humour struggling under the weight of the building Nazi terror. Ella it is not! 1666 takes its name from a year when, as Galvin points out, England suffered the Plague, the Great Fire Of London and the Anglo-Dutch war. It is suitably doomladen in a strangely beautiful way.
There may be bleakness here but its gallows humour sounds distinctly English. And there is playfulness too, in the giddiness of Hurdy Gurdy, in the exotic sound (with a lighter-worn dark undercurrent) of Tipu’s Tiger, in the disconcerting microtonal melodicas of Blop.
The trio’s use of glockenspiel and kalimba against bowed bass or piano strings dulled by duct tape gives the band a wide sound palette, and their strong character and near-telepathic working makes this a singular and hugely distinctive album. Its cleverness is the result of a youthful brilliance, to be sure, and the jumpcut thought processes of a low boredom threshold may exhaust an older ear, but all its qualities are, of course, to be cheered enthusiastically.
The Elliot Galvin Trio puts not one foot wrong throughout in making inventive, adventurous, often confrontational and totally pertinent jazz for 21st-century Britain – and beyond.
Categories: CD review