Will Galison
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Will Galison


Band Jazz Singer/Songwriter


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"Review Of Galison/ Peyroux CD"

Pop Matters

Nicole Pensiero

PopMatters home
Got You on My Mind
(Waking Up Music)

Remember Madeleine Peyroux? Sure you do -- she came out with a great debut record, Dreamland, back in 1996 and was heralded as the second coming of Billie Holiday. The fact that Peyroux was a 22-year-old white woman from Georgia only added to the media frenzy that surrounded her first effort. She was written up in Time magazine and sold more than 100,000 copies of her record with virtually no radio support. Still don't remember? Maybe that's because Peyroux seemed to literally drop off the planet immediately following that initial splash. No more records; no interviews -- she was gone, apparently back to her roots as a street busker.

Then, a few years ago, Peyroux started showing up at smaller venues along the East Coast, often accompanied by multi-instrumentalist (and harmonica virtuoso) William Galison. Anyone who caught one of their shows saw (and heard) that Peyroux's talent was undiminished by time. If anything, she sounded better than ever. And with the quick-on-his-feet Galison by her side, Peyroux seemed to flourish under the spotlight.

Ends up, the duo did more than just tour: they recorded an indie CD in the spring of 2003, which is just now finding it way to the public. (Later this year, Peyroux will release her big-budget Rounder debut, Careless Love).

No matter what Peyroux does from this point on, she'll be hard-pressed to come up with anything more engaging or charming than her effort with Galison, Got You on My Mind. This hip, yet retro-sounding 11-song CD is an eclectic collection of songs made famous by everyone from Josephine Baker to the Beatles to Stevie Wonder -- as well as three originals co-penned by Galison and Peyroux.

From the Les Paul-ish guitar strains of the Al Jolson-penned opener "Back in Your Own Back Yard" -- highlighted by Peyroux's breezy, confident vocal performance -- to an updated version of Josephine Baker's smoldering 1930 hit "J'ai Deux Amours", there's a synergy between Galison and Peyroux that's palpable.

Even more noticeable is that Peyroux's smoke-and-whiskey vocals seem to have only gotten richer and more flexible with the passing of time. While Dreamland was an impressive debut, Peyroux's youth came through in many of the songs. Now, while still in her early 30s, Peyroux sings with depth and warmth never heard before, especially on the title track and on Jerome Kerns' "The Way You Look Tonight".

The CD, produced by Galison, features an array of talent, including Bob Dylan's bassist Tony Garnier and Saturday Night Live drummer Sean Pelton. Even Carly Simon gets in on the act, doing the voice of the scorpion on Galison's witty, woe-is-me number, "Shoulda Known".

While Peyroux is a known commodity, it is Galison who is the revelation, playing no less than seven instruments throughout the record and proving himself to be a more-than-capable singer in his own right. He plays chromatic harmonica with both restraint and passion, even turning John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" into a subtlety emotive ballad (with only two lines even sung). His "Rag for Madi" -- featuring the jazz clarinet of Brad Terry -- is delightful in its simplicity.

And that's a good part of what makes this record so delightful: it's done with a light touch, both musically and vocally. No dense overdubs, no swirling strings. In fact, many of the performances on Got You on My Mind were first takes, giving the record a crisp, unfettered sound. While Peyroux's distinctive, bluesy voice doesn't quite work with a straightforward pop number like "Heaven Help Us All", it's a minor misstep in what is an original-sounding, utterly engaging record. And for fans of Ms. Peyroux, totally worth the wait.

— 29 July 2004

- Pop Matters


What's been said about WILLIAM GALISON...

“To my ear, the most original and individual of
the new generation of harmonica players.”

Playing and working with William is always a joy. The notes he finds and the ideas he comes up with are always a delightful surprise. I am lucky to have worked with William Galison and I have much to learn from him.”

“I love this guy’s playing!”

“Galison's performance with (Toninho) Horta is one of those miracles which a record producer dreams of. The melody unfolds into an emotional love poem... Small wonder that the audience burst into a huge ovation...”
(Record Producer of Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Benny Goodman...)

“William is unique in his ability to find the notes you’d never expect, but that stick in your memory as capturing the exact spirit. His playing on Bagdad Cafe and other scores contributed greatly to their success.”
-BOB TELSON (composer Bagdad Cafe/ Out of Rosenheim)

“A soulful Musician with a beautiful melodic approach”

“Like his obvious role model Toots Thielemans, William Galison is a gifted doubler. Already well established as one of the most original voices on harmonica from his wonderfully melodic, depthfully soulful work on film scores like The Untouchables and Bagdad Cafe as well as his own recordings like 19881s
Overjoyed and 19901s Calling You, Galison also reveals himself to be an accomplished guitarist on Got You On My Mind. This
affecting collaboration with the Billie Holiday-styled singer Madeleine Peyroux has Galison demonstrating traces of Les Paul, Oscar Moore and Tiny Grimes in his easy swinging six-
string repertoire while also showcasing his inimitable harmonica chops. And he delights with a few vocal numbers as well, which makes him a real triple-threat.”


"William played on my new album and he was amazing. He knew exactly what was right for each song, and his ability to play many different styles helped me achieve my musical goals for the entire record."


“The highlight of the set was Galison's version of “Tenderly”... with
a solo that included chords, trills, shakes, octaves and a depth of
tone I never thought possible on the Harmonica.”


"Galison's performance was akin to the virtouosity of Lester
Young's tenor sax work... I sat in awe"

"Plays sweetly... leaps lithely... swings hard where
appropriate... first rate!"

"Harmonica ace"

"Review of Los Angeles Jazz Gig"

Live Jazz: William Galison at the Whitefire Theatre
October 31, 2009 — irom
by Devon Wendell

It was an evening of pure, traditional jazz delivered with sensitivity and originality by harmonica wiz William Galison and his quintet on Thursday night at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks. Backing Galison in the L.A. Modern Jazz Series concert were pianist Otmaro Ruiz, clarinetist John Tegmeyer, bassist Greg Swiller and drummer Dan Schnelle.

Opening the set with the Charlie Parker classic “Billy’s Bounce,” Galison and Tegmeyer immediately established an original sense of harmony between the chromatic harmonica and clarinet. Instead of trying to mimic Bird and Miles’s original recording, Galison proved that less is more, choosing to play well thought out and tasteful phrasing with soul and a true knowledge of his instrument, without falling back on fast scales or abandoning the over all theme of the piece. Tegmeyer’s playing, though sweet, was more frenetic, which created true dynamics between the pair. Here and elsewhere, Ruiz’s piano work tended to start soft and tender and slowly build in intensity, prompting the very pure rhythm team of Swiller and Schnelle to give it their all, very much the way McCoy Tyner would push Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones to climactic heights which John Coltrane could explore.

On Galison’s composition, “New Samba,” the band laid down a hard-bop samba motif, with Galison and Tegmeyer interweaving in and out of each other’s lines perfectly, without stepping on each other’s phrasing. As Galison said to the audience, “Clarinet and harmonica are like family, or like peanut butter and jelly.”

Though almost every jazz artist has covered “Body and Soul,” Galison’s rendition was one of the most mournful and bluesiest versions I’ve ever heard, playing high note bends on the harmonica and making the instrument cry and plead with very few notes. It was, without a doubt, a highlight of the set. His slow vibrato, in fact, was closer to that of tenor sax balladeer Ben Webster than that of his mentor and chromatic harmonica master, Toots Thielemans. Tegmeyer’s solo, though confident and skillful, could hardly match Galison’s emotional outpouring on this standard.

“Just Friends” will always be associated with Bird’s incredible reading of this classic ballad on the Charlie Parker with Strings album. Galison’s cover was closer to the version by Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins on the album Sonny Meets Hawk. Again, Galison chose not to mimic Bird’s laser like runs and instead rode slowly and soulfully behind the bass, drums and piano. His ability to slur notes and expand upon the song’s well known melody was astonishing.

On “Whitefire Blues” (Galison’s on- the-spot ode to the show’s tiny theater venue), he switched from chromatic to diatonic harmonica, delving straight into a pure and slow Chicago blues shuffle, paying tribute to blues harp masters Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and Junior Wells, with squawks, wails, moans, and sharp bends. Ruiz’s playing was in the authentic vein of Chicago blues piano veterans Eddie Boyd and Otis Spann, instead of sounding like a jazz player trying to oversimplify the blues. Swiller’s bass walked with purpose and groove, and Schelle held down a solid foundation for Galison and Tegmeyer. It was obvious on this number that Galison has a pure understanding of the blues, which is also the foundation of his jazz soloing. This was true alley music from the Windy City even though Tegmeyer’s playing sometimes seemed out of place – a reminder that Howlin’ Wolf and the others never seemed to include a clarinet in their musical mix.

Johnny Mandel’s composition “Emily,” made popular by Henry Mancini, closed the set, with Galison and company choosing to emphasize the romantic ambiance of the original theme. Tegmeyer’s clarinet shined on this number, playing fast yet graceful runs to match Galison’s voice-like lines. The band remained strictly within the jazz mainstream, convincingly calling back to a different era.

Galison’s enthusiasm and joy for the music – whether pure jazz or the blues — was present in each number, Although he spoke with warmth about his former teacher and mentor Toots Thielemans, it was obvious, in this refreshingly intimate and memorable jazz performance, that Galison has found his own style. Unlike the countless other chromatic players have hung on to Thielemans’ every note for the past several decades, Galison is a true original.

To read other posts by Devon Wendell, click here.
- International Review of Music


“Line open” – Waking Up Music

“Got You On My Mind” w/ Madi Peyroux

“Waking up With You”- Aosis

“ Love Letters” w/Janet Seidel- La Brava

“Midnight Sun”- GLM records

“Calling You”- Verve Forecast

“Overjoyed” - Verve Forecast

“Live from Moscow” w/ Tonino Horta- B&W

“MoonSongs”- Waking Up Music (not released)




Will Galison is a unique and wildly talented musician; harmonica virtuoso, acclaimed guitarist, singer/ songwriter, arranger, composer, producer….

Dubbed “the most original and individual of the new generation of harmonica players” by none other than the great Toots Thielemans, Will has worked with such varied artists as Sting, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Astrud Gilberto, Les Paul, Chaka Khan, Jimmy Webb, David Byrne, Ruth Brown and Jaco Pastorius. Of his many albums as a leader, his first album on the Verve label, Overjoyed, charted at #6 on the US contemporary jazz charts, and his 2004 duo album with jazz vocalist Madeleine Peyroux, "Got You On My Mind", has been a best seller world wide.

Galison’s distinctive sound is heard on a myriad of albums, commercials and television and film scores, including "The Informant", "August Rush", "Prelude To A Kiss", "The Truth About Cats and Dogs", "Crooklyn" and Academy Award nominees "The Untouchables" and "Bagdad Café". His television credits include the theme of Sesame Street, Saturday Night Live (with Sting) and on many popular TV series.

Will has also performed on stage on Broadway and on the national and international tours of Big River and the musical stage version of the film Bagdad Café, and was recently profiled in the BBC documentary about the harmonica, Tin Sandwich.

In the past few years. Will has been concentrating on writing and performing original songs. though he writes in various idioms, the humor, wisdom and cleverness of his lyrics are a constant. Will's lyric adaptation of Louis Jordan's "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", "Takin' it Back With Barack Jack. has been viewed over half a million times on Youtube. The Huffington Post called it 'one of the ten best Campaign songs of the 2008 election season" and Obama's campaign manager. Dave Axelrod. reported that the song "cracked up the President", a fact that Will is especially proud of. Will's songs are becoming an institution, with nearly a million hits over the past twp years.

Will’s amazing range of talents is best appreciated in his live performances. He has performed at music festivals and clubs around the world as a soloist and sideman. He has performed with big bands, chamber ensembles, Orchestras, jazz groups, Blues bands, Rock bands, World beat bands, Brazilian groups, duos (as with Ms. Peyroux), and most recently as a solo songwriter singer, alone with his guitar and harmonica.

Will's bands include top musicians from New York City and Los Angeles, and he prefers to bring them on tour, but he is flexible and prepared enough to use local musicians of high caliber.

Will will tailor his presentation to the audience and the venue he is playing. One thing is certain, whatever Will does, he does it with impeccable musicality, humor, intensity and SOUL.