Michael Gallant, linda oh, michael gallant
Four bars before his solo on "Completely," the title track from the Michael Gallant Trio's debut album, the man behind the piano dug into the tune's dirty rock riff and focused on a dual purpose - a) to pour so much of himself into that single solo that, if a future child of his were to know him only through this recording, he or she would come away with a real sense of their father's personality and spirit, and b) to have so much fun in the process.
An intense directive for sure, but one that fits with the guts, passion, virtuosity, and spirit of adventure with which Gallant approached every element of this release.
Completely features nine original works, as well as a cover of Pearl Jam's "Go" that channels equal parts Eddie Vedder and McCoy Tyner. Throughout his compositions and arrangements, Gallant sought to alchemize the energy of the Seattle grunge band with the grace of Bill Evans, the timeless melodicism of Leonard Bernstein, and the improvisational astronautics of Medeski Martin and Wood - all within the vehicle of the traditional jazz trio. Assembling the right team was key for hitting such a mark.
Gallant leads the trio on acoustic and electric pianos, with DownBeat Critics Pole winner Linda Oh on bass and New York session drummer Chris Infusino on percussion. Completely was recorded and mixed by Grammy award-winning engineer Mario J McNulty and was co-produced by Gallant and his wife and frequent musical collaborator Rachel Rossos.
Gallant began his professional playing career as a teenager, gigging throughout the Washington, DC area, touring with a traditional jazz band to New Orleans (and playing stride piano at Preservation Hall), creating music for his first professional theater production, and winning classical piano competitions at two DC-area conservatories before graduating from high school. After studying music and anthropology at Columbia University, he became an editor for Keyboard magazine, penning cover stories on artists like Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, Dave Brubeck, Ben Folds, and Tori Amos. With Completely, Gallant focuses the wisdo gained from such journalistic mentorship sessions into his own recorded music.
Completely is a collection of stories, people, and places. Gallant wrote the funky, swaggering "The Real Maria" as a memorial to his first jazz piano teacher, a brilliant and fiery player who always urged him to put "salsa" into his fingers. The wistfully sensual "Cornelia Street Tango" was premiered at a theater production at the tune's Namesake Cornelia Street Café. The Zeppelin-meets-Debussy composition "Problem With The Game" was also originally written to underscore live theater, and premiered at the Nuyorican Poets Café. "Greens," the album's grooving opener, evolved as Gallant jammed on it, gig after gig, during his monthly residency at New York's Underground Lounge.