Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review of George Colligan's "Come Together"

Artist: George Colligan

CD: Come Together (Sunnyside SSC-1226)

Musicians: George Colligan (piano); Boris Kozlov (acoustic and electric bass); Donald Edwards (drums)

Recorded: Recorded November 5, 2008 Tedesco Studios, Paramus, NJ

All compositions by George Colligan except “Come Together” by Lennon/McCartney; and “The Shadow of Your Smile” by Mandel/Webster.

Despite actively recording since 1996, I first heard George Colligan as a sideman on the fine Jamie Baum release “Solace” from 2007.His harmonic sensibilities were imaginative and unpredictable even in the subdued chamber jazz setting of Baum’s wonderfully expressive compositions.

His work on guitarist Greg Skaff’s 2008 release "East Harlem Skyline” showed he is equally comfortable on the Hammond B3.

Seeing him in person with Baum’s Septet at Joe’s Pub it was obvious that his unbridled energy was itching to break out on his own. He released “Runaway” as a leader last year and though it offered a glimpse of his potential, especially on “End of A Dynasty” it fell short of my expectations.

The new release “Come Together” is a thoroughly enjoyable addition to his musical repertoire. Colligan and fellow band mates, Boris Koslov on bass and Donald Edwards on drums, were former members of the Mingus Big Band and the Mingus Dynasty. Their empathetic musical interaction is a result of these years together.

Colligan’s treatment of the Lennon/McCartney classic “Come Together” is not just another jazz rendition of a popular song. He infuses the Beatles classic with soulful funk and blues. Colligan’s driving cascade of notes and Koslov’s probing electric bass take the memorable melody line to new heights of exploration. Koslov is especially impressive with his rapid-fire Wooten-like bass runs. His deft and accomplished playing on both acoustic and electric bass was a revelation.

With the exception of the title tune and the standard “Shadow of Your Smile”, a standout that Colligan plays in a sauntering and wonderfully free swinging manner, all the compositions on the album are originals. On the tempestuous “Venom”, a staccato piece that the trio plays at a relatively fast clip, the energy is palpable. Eventually they engage the afterburner by double timing the last chorus in a ripping finale that smokes. “Have No Fear” is another hard driving song that exudes megawatts of energy as Colligan plays block chords up and down the keyboard. Koslov takes a penetrating solo on acoustic bass and Edwards keeps impeccable time. “Lift” is a crescendo building composition that explores elements of fusion, where Koslov’s electric bass is featured.

Colligan’s playing is explosive with his musical ideas erupting like molten lava from his volcanic keyboard. He has more than a passing deference to Tyner, especially in “To the Wall” which has moments of being eerily like a driving young McCoy with his powerful, percussive, chordally based playing.

His two ballads “ So Sad I Had to Laugh” and “Open Your Heart” show a reflective side to Colligan. The former is particularly poignant, including deft brushwork by Edwards and a wonderfully expressive exchange by Koslov and Colligan including some subtle arco work by Koslov at the coda.

On “Open Your Heart” Colligan plays classically inspired flourishes as Koslov demonstrates his emotive abilities on electric bass. Just when you think the song is treading on a predicable path Colligan suprises, as he so often does, with some of the most moving and nuanced improvisations on the album. With something for everyone, this expansive and approachable offering will undoubtedly add to George Colligan's growing reputation as a pianist and a composer with something to say.

Track Listing: Come Together; Venom; Have No Fear; So Sad I Had to Laugh; Reaction; The Shadow of Your Smile; Lift; Open Your Heart; To The Wall; Uncharted Territory.Favorite Tracks are highlighted.

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