I found myself discovering a new feeling with every abstract tune as I listened to Warren Galea’s Meditations.
Galea is a talented guitarist and composer, and a prominent name in the Maltese Jazz scene. Having graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, Galea has performed in numerous renowned venues across the United States, as well as the Dusseldorf Jazz Rally in Europe, Europe Day Festival, and, of course, the Malta Jazz Festival.
Released on August 18, Meditations follows Diadems, Troubadours and The Odyssey, as Galea’s third album. However, it stands out from the rest of his albums and EPs, as it is a collection of improvised, personal guitar tunes, recorded throughout the span of one year on his mobile phone. While Diadems, Troubadours is also a rather personal release as it pays homage to his late father, Leslie Galea, Meditations serves as a journal of sorts, both for the composer, as well as for the listener.
The 23 tracks which make up the album all carry the titles of the date they were composed on, spanning from January 7 2021 to March 1 2022, hence the personal, diary-like aspect of this work. The improvisations make it seem as if you’re having an honest, heart-to-heart chat with Galea, perhaps discussing something personal that no eavesdroppers should be part of. He is conversing with his guitar, while you respond with your feelings, emotions, or anything that has emerged as a result of his melodies, be it a soft, acoustic guitar (No. 10: June 25th, 2021), or a rasher and more overdriven sound (No. 14: November 21st, 2021).
The ambient hum that comes with most phone recordings is a small detail which adds to the authenticity of this album, as it reveals that this is just Galea and his instrument in an eruption of spontaneous creativity; no studio editing, no set order of recording, but pure feeling in the spur of the moment. The length of the tunes ranges from 20 seconds to almost 9 minutes, much like a diary entry – some days seem brief, while there are others which you just can’t stop writing about.
No. 21: February 28th, 2022 is by far the most versatile song in the album. It is full of diverse techniques which also show Galea as an incredibly skilful musician. In those seven minutes and 34 seconds you can hear intricate scales, bluesy string bends and gentle strumming that echoes throughout. The highs and lows turn this tune into an emotional ride, while around the five-minute mark, you can almost picture him playing the elaborate solo in front of you. The song comes to a gentle close, concluding the experience in which you barely feel the time passing by.
It is interesting to note that the release party for Meditations, which took place at Rumi Poetry Bar in Valletta, consisted of a fully improvised set by Galea. While I expected to hear the album itself at a release party, this choice came as a pleasant surprise which further emphasised his improvising prowess and ability to convey feeling with his instrument, rather than the exact tunes of the album itself. In a sense, it served as an extension of the album.
I have had the chance to listen to Galea live numerous times, and (full disclosure) even to play a tune with him on one occasion. This album confirms him as an incredibly talented musician who can almost effortlessly add his own flavour to any song. You can catch him enchanting the audience in multiple venues across the island, be it solo or with a band.