I acquired a copy of William Galison’s import CD “Midnight Sun” (William Galison-Mulo Franzi Group, EC508-2)at SPAH 98, and have listened to it a
couple of times since. It’s a very enjoyable jazz record, plenty of great harmonica playing (with and without Franzi’s saxophone counterpoint)and an excellent band (especially Franzi). The recorded sound is warm, clear, and strong, and the tunes, both originals and covers, are memorable. (I especially liked “Never Never Land,” the theme from “Peter Pan,” which is given a latin treatment.) William uses a chromatic harmonica with several valves removed to allow for deeper bending on a few big notes, and the effect is startling and dramatic. His tone is beautiful, and his precision on improvised lines is impressive. The CD includes a take on Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring” that is too sunny and unhurried to sound like real bebop, but it’s a pleasing approach, and the melody sounds great.
This is not cutting-edge music, i.e. it is not harsh, abrasive, unconventionally structured, self-consciously virtuosic or self-consciously crude (or both), or arrogant in its demands on the listener. (It is asking a lot for any audience to sit through extended sessions of scrabbling noise that determinedly goes nowhere apparent. I listen to such stuff out of curiosity, and sometimes I enjoy it, but it’s asking a lot.) This band’s music is melodic, beautifully arranged and played, and swinging, and it returns pleasure for the time invested in it. It’s a jazz record for a sunny day, or for when you need one.
I’ll note briefly here that I have heard a lot of very fine, original, and well-produced harmonica records in the last year, including Clint Hoover’s, Sandy Weltman’s, Mike Turk’s, etc.; almost all of them were self-produced and distributed. It’s clear that the continued drop in costs for recording and manufacturing is benefiting the harmonica community by allowing strong artists to get their work out without backing from a major (or even minor) label. This is a good time to be a fan of harmonica music: better instruments, better players, lots of original work happening.