THE INCOMPARABLE DOMINIC GALEA

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Dominic Galea has musically transformed himself over the years. His approach to music is much different from what it used to be in his youth. He’s transitioned from pop song festivals and musicals to producing concept legacy albums and concerts in the jazz vein and musico-literary projects. He takes an interest in a diversity of musical genres and likes to share his opinion for the sake of musicianship, and is likewise open to advice to extend his knowledge and experience.

Above all, Dominic is someone who loves his family and his partner Josette. He enjoys every minute that he shares with his loved ones. He also loves his food and regularly frequents good restaurants and cafeterias. To relax, he watches football, tennis, snooker and athletics, or unwinds with a James Bond film.

 

Can you recall your first ever performance on stage?

When I was about six or seven years old, the only piece I knew was the first theme from Mozart’s 40 with a very simple arrangement made for me by my father. Wherever there was a piano, I’d sit down and play this piece with a swing feel, and people used to love it. I felt proud every time I played it, and so I always dreamt of growing up to become a pianist just like my father.

Ironically, my first jazz performance on the big stage was not in Malta but at the Bratislava Jazz Days 1985, playing on the same stage as giants Stanley Clarke, John McLaughlin and Terje Rypdal. To top it all, a compilation double album to commemorate the event was released later that year and one of my compositions, Horizon, is featured. This was the first time a Maltese jazz band had participated at an international jazz festival, and so we therefore had good coverage on the media. Considering the limited opportunities in those days and also bearing in mind that the Malta Jazz Festival had only kicked off six years later in 1991, this singular episode in the history of Maltese jazz was very momentous. It was the jazz equivalent of a Maltese group landing on the moon. Back then, regular jazz gigs at local clubs were a rarity in themselves.

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Image: Dominic Galea (piano), Brandon Allen (tenor sax) and Martin Shaw (trumpet) at the the Herts Jazz Festival

 

Jazz is very heavily based on improvisation. However, there must still be a beginning, middle and an end. How has your experimentation and structure evolved over the years?

Improvisation means creativity; composing on the spot. It’s normally based on a given form, harmonic progression and melody. An accomplished jazz musician shouldn’t find any problems delivering his own variations of the given tune. The pre-composed elements mentioned above most often serve as the foundations of the improvised sections. Listening to different styles is imperative to broaden your perspective and cultivate your musical ear. One also needs instrumental preparation and technique to deliver ideas on the instrument.

But all these clichés are still not enough, and as Bill Evans once said, “Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there’s the very human and even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result.”

Who inspires you?

I get my inspiration from various sources, not only from music itself but also from literature, photos and discussions. My favourite jazz masters are pianists Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Stan Tracey, McCoy Tyner, Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, to mention a few. When listening to music, it’s important to enrich your cultural background. That way, one would be able to enjoy and appreciate it at a higher level through understanding music in its historical context.

Your music has taken you to various locations around the world. Which place has so far struck you the most?

My favourite jazz concert was at the Herts Jazz Festival in England. Besides being invited to perform there for the first time with my old friend Clark Tracey, whom I’ve admired ever since I was a kid, I was also introduced and had the opportunity to play alongside elite English jazz musicians such as Martin Shaw, Brandon Allen and Mark Lewandowski. I got to experience the dedication and professionalism of these extremely talented masters of the genre.

These sporadic episodes in my career keep me striving to improve and help me believe that my philosophy on music is on the right path.

If your piano could speak, what would it say?

It would tell me, “If you had listened to your parents and studied harder when you were young, today, we could have achieved a greater degree of sophistication.” Having said that, I still thank God for giving me enough talent to enjoy myself when I’m performing, practising or listening to others.

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Image: Dominic Galea playing at the Eunic Jazz Festival in Berlin 2015