Release Date: November 17, 2023
Label: Cellar Music Group
Grand Company showcases an intriguing blend of Ray's original compositions and fresh, reimagined takes on classic standards. This project is the realization of Gallon's longstanding aspiration to record in a trio setting with two extraordinary musicians who had a profound influence on his early development. The bandleader is joined on this monumental release by the legendary Ron Carter, widely regarded as the premier bassist of our time, and acclaimed drummer Lewis Nash, known for his phenomenal work with such luminaries as Tommy Flanagan, Betty Carter, Kenny Barron and Dizzy Gillespie.
To listen to pianist Ray Gallon is to take a journey through the great lineage of jazz piano from its inception all the way up to the cutting-edge present. Imbued with the vocabulary, sensibilities and soul of the very architects of the jazz artform, Gallon’s sound is right-at-home emanating from the strings of the piano at the iconic Van Gelder Studios - emanating through the very room in which many of the classic jazz albums of yesteryear were recorded. There is no grander company for Gallon to share this trio outing with than bassist Ron Carter and drummer Lewis Nash. The bandleader remarks: “Both Ron and Lewis played significant roles in my musical development, particularly during those formative years. Recording a trio album with these two remarkable artists has been at the top of my bucket list ever since; doing it at Rudy Van Gelder’s, on that hallowed Steinway B, was icing on the cake. The date was smooth sailing, with everything recorded in one or two takes.”
While this is Gallon’s very first trio outing as bandleader with these fine musicians, these three masters share a long history of collaboration. In the late 1980s, Gallon and Nash had the opportunity to perform together with Ron Carter in Carter’s Quintet and Nonet, which cemented their musical bond. Gallon notes that “this was like something of a reunion for us, which made this date an extra special occasion.”
Grand Company has garnered praise from GRAMMY winning pianist Bill Charlap for its exceptional trio concept. Charlap rhapsodizes in the liner notes: “This is my favorite kind of trio playing - the inimitable and distinctive personal and collective sound of Ray Gallon, Ron Carter and Lewis Nash has transparency and clarity, where every note and gesture mean something. Ray Gallon’s music is informed, passionate, and personal. He possesses a unique rhythmic imagination and a wrought iron vocabulary. Grand Company is a milestone.”
The album itself strikes a balance of tradition and innovation with the performance of five original pieces by Gallon, as well as his arrangements of four timeless standards. Gallon’s original pieces strike a personal chord, this is improvisational music in its highest form of storytelling - a true conversation between three artists with an unparalleled command of the language. Grand Company begins with Gallon’s arrangement of the Duke Ellington classic “Drop Me Off in Harlem”. From the very first selection, the ear is piqued with re-harmonizations, and stellar rhythmic and melodic interplay between the trio members. Gallon and Carter offer beautifully crafted solos that set the tone for an album rife with fantastic melodic invention.
“Acting Up”, an original by Gallon, is a wonderfully inventive, up-tempo contrafact based on “Lullaby in Rhythm” that features the playful rhythmic displacement of a drastically re-harmonized chord progression, before leading into a beautifully fluid, hard swinging solo section. Gallon remarks “The send-off figure for Ron’s walking solo utilizes John Lewis’ “The Golden Striker” motif and is a tip of the cap to both John Lewis, my mentor at CCNY in the late ‘70s, and Maestro Carter, who loves that piece so much, he named his trio after it.” “Two Track Mind”, another of Gallon’s inventive originals, harkens back to Gallon’s musical roots as a blues pianist prior to his discovering jazz. The piece draws inspiration from Monk, Ray Bryant and Sonny Clark and their ability to, as Gallon describes, “spin blues clichés into jazz gold”. Following Carter’s jaw-dropping solo, there is a shout chorus featuring Nash’s remarkable brushwork. The bandleader remarks “playing this kind of tempo with Ron and Lewis is probably as close as i’ll ever get to experiencing heaven on Earth.” Gallon’s “Monkey Bars” is a playful piece that alternates between a 6/8 Afro-Cuban vamp and atmospheric jazz waltz. On this piece, the 6/8 bassline vamp figure serves as a background for a tremendous solo from Nash. The hauntingly beautiful “Zombette”, a moody original ballad by Gallon that he says was “inspired by a petite French zombie I once met”, is largely set in a tonally ambiguous musical landscape, before finally resolving to the key of D-minor.
The album closes with “Old Folks”, a tune that tells a story about Gallon and Carter’s long musical relationship. Gallon recalls “In the late ‘80s, while I was a grad student at CCNY, Ron asked me to play what became a recurring duo gig with him at the NYC venue Knickerbocker. “Old Folks” was a standard tune he liked to play almost every night and his ability to produce an endless stream of great new ideas, night after night, chorus after chorus, without ever seeming to repeat himself, never ceased to amaze! Here, we play it as a bossa with an added vamp interlude. The re-harm I put in the last A was inspired by
those incredible turnarounds Ron played with Miles’ ‘60s Quintet. It seems somehow fitting that one of the first tunes I ever played with Maestro Carter became the finale for this dream project, 35 years later!”
Pianist Bill Charlap espouses “I love the sophistication of this recording. Ray Gallon, Ron Carter and Lewis Nash are supreme musicians and Grand Company is a prize!”
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"Gallon does justice to both the instrument and the hallowed surroundings unfazed by the giant shoes he was attempting to fill." Check out the full review here.
MAKING A SCENE
"Piano trios don’t get any more prestigious than this in both name and execution." Check out the full review here.
"If you want a straight-ahead traditional jazz trio album look no further than this recording by pianist Gallon joined by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Lewis Nash." Check out this feature on the editors playlist here.
DARK BLUE NOTE
"He expresses his ideas with original sentences, free from unnecessary embellishments, and with smooth fluency. " Check out this feature on the new albums list in Turkish here.
LONDON JAZZ NET
"In more than three decades on the scene, pianist and composer Ray Gallon has come to embody the word – as any jazz veteran worth his or her salt should." Check the full interview here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Gallon continues demonstrating that he is a pianist committed to the art of discovery, while Carter delivers his solo with sweeping agility." Check out this feature on the editors playlist here.