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John O'Gallagher's contribution to Fresh Sound New Talent finds the saxophonist again working with his Axiom quartetTony Malaby on tenor and soprano sax, John Hebert on bass, and Jeff Williams on drums. Line of Sight is O'Gallagher's second Axiom release, his first for FSNT.
This latest effort from O'Gallagher and Axiom showcases the young saxophonist's incredible compositional work. Compared to last years spirited CIMP releases Rule of Invisibility, Vol. 1 and 2 (trio sessions with drummer Jay Rosen and bassist Masa Kamaguchi), Line of Sight showcases a tighter and more rehearsed ensemble. But, as O'Gallagher points out, within the composed lines and complex harmonies that Axiom plays, there is plenty of room for exploration and free expression. Toying with this balance is where O'Gallagher and Axiom excel; the elasticity of the quartet's music, the push and pull, the tug-of-war between composition and free improvisation is what makes Line of Sight so enjoyable.
"Unmode is one of the CD's best selections. Through the first few minutes, O'Gallagher and Malaby are prize fighters, jabbing at each other, sticking and moving against the rhythm sections groove, with O'Gallagher wailing high as Malaby's tenor pecks low. This track is a perfect example of O'Gallagher's linear composition styleladen with ever-knotting notation and twisted harmonies.
The wandering, surprisingly sensual balladry of "Leona (a welcome respite from the album's otherwise frenzied pace) is followed by the surprising slow-groove of "Effluence, which again utilizes interweaving lyricism from the saxophones. To further heighten the level of interplay on "Revolving Doors, two additional soprano parts were overdubbed, creating a four-horn harmony. Williams and Hebert's timekeeping here is a tasteful nod to high octane bebop, a la Max Roach, pushing Malaby and O'Gallagher's playing closer to controlled chaos.
If anything, O'Gallagher's presence on the jazz scene should be refreshing to jazz fans. A talented improviser, composer, bandleader, and thinker like O'Gallagher allows jazz fans to rest assured that jazz isn't dead, that there are young talented artists striving for a fresh sound. While much of his music is similar in technique to fellow altoist Tim Berne, this isn't in and of itself a bad thingthe two saxophonist's tones are much different and the compositional comparison is one borne more out of influence than imitation.
John O'Gallagher is quickly becoming one of my favorite modern jazz artists, and Fresh Sound's Line of Sight is his best recording to date.