Live In Paris At Fondation Louis Vuitton: an espresso with Elliot Galvin

Image Credits: Elliot Galvin © Elliot Galvin

July 2, 2020

Elliot Galvin‘s new album represents one of the greatest challenges for an artist: a totally improvised performance that highlights, in addition to technical mastery, also the bright creativity of the English pianist. 


> Ivano Rossato 

Can you tell us how “Live In Paris At Fondation Louis Vuitton” was born and why you chose this particular performance? 
I was asked to come and play a solo set at Fondation Louis Vuitton as part of a solo piano series they were presenting. Originally I had no plan to record and release the concert, but as it happened the concert was recorded and I was really happy with how it went.
Fondation Louis Vuitton were very kind and agreed to let me release the recording, and it just went from there. I always knew I would release a solo piano record and it just felt like the right time to do it, everything just lined up; a concert I was happy with, a beautiful room and piano and a great recording. I’m very lucky it worked out that way.
The main source of inspiration is the moment the piece is performed in. That means the energy from the audience, the sound of the piano, the acoustics of the room, everything. Being totally in the moment and responding to it sonically in an honest way. If any one thing changes, everything changes. It feels very pure in that way, as a form of performance.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge in a solo concert of improvised music?
It’s hard to say what the biggest challenge is, as there are quite a few challenges with doing it effectively, but I think the balancing of the micro and macro aspects of the performance is a particularly challenging aspect.
Having to be completely in the moment and responding to it, whilst also having an idea of the overall shape of the performance and where you are traveling to and from. How the set is balancing and what needs to happen next. You are incharge of form and content, it requires a great deal of concentration.
Is it the reworking of pre-existing melodic and harmonic blocks or is it a completely spontaneous flow?
It is unavoidable to have predetermined elements of a performance like this, even if that’s as broad as playing the concert on a piano rather than a saxophone, but I try to be as honest to the moment as possible, and for me that means having no predetermined material. Everything I improvise I play spontaneously in the moment, nothing predetermined or inserted.
What are the major artistic influences that in your opinion have shaped your style?
I try and keep as broad a set of influences as possible, so I’m probably as influenced by art film and literature as I am by music. I think Ligeti really stands out to me as someone who really influenced me as well as James Joyce and Robert Rauschenberg. There are a lot of Jazz musicians who have influenced me, and it changes all the time, but at the moment Geri Allen, Cecil Taylor and Thelonious Monk spring to mind.
Compared to working with Dinosaur, the trio or the duo, how does your approach as a musician change?
I always try to be true to the context I’m performing in and the musicians I’m performing with. Playing with different musicians brings out different aspects of music I like to play, but I try not to be too conscious of this and just respond in an honest way without overthinking it. So I’m sure my approach does change, but not in a considered way, rather in more of an instinctual way.
What are the next projects you have for the future?
At the moment I’m working on a sound installation as part of a Jerwood Fellowship for next year. I’m also hopefully (pandemic permitting) going into the studio to do another record with Binker as a quartet this time. Hopefully also starting work on an orchestral piece for performance some time in 2021. There are a number of other things planned, but with everything so up in the air at the minute, it’s hard to know what will and won’t be able to happen…
Live In Paris At Fondation Louis Vuitton: an espresso with Elliot Galvin copyright Jazzespresso 2020.
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