A George Colligan record is an audio guarantee of superior musicianship and his extensive resume proves why: he plays several instruments, has collaborated with an impressive roster of luminaries and dons different hats, not only that of a musician, but that of a bandleader and instructor at Juilliard.
Runaway, his second Sunnyside release, is a pleasant record that suggests evenings of dark wine and pixie dust. “The Righteous” is a well-rounded piece that boasts exquisite playing all around. It is passionate and discordant yet harmonious. The string section is notably forceful, with bassist Josh Ginsberg and guitarist Tom Guarna offering firecracker performances at once graceful and audacious.
The record stays safely within the margins of minimal variability but maximum reliability. This makes for a satisfying, but sometimes unsurprising listen. Almost three minutes into “Innocent Youth,” Colligan strays from his dependable palette and goes for a fresh dynamism, nicely handling the piece’s slinky groove. The pieces have a structural exquisiteness that benefit in no small way from Colligan’s tremendous force. The tracks burst with potential energy but Colligan continually hints he is capable of more. The record is solid, with track after track of expertly put together bits that seem like floating bands of smoke. There are at least four moments of “R U Things That Fall” that are unexpected in how unforced they are in their precision. Runaway features an elegantly constructed assortment of pieces that are at times funky and at times proper. Both are carried out with equal aplomb.
There is more than enough room in Colligan’s talent to accommodate a dazzling, startling turn. How and when and where Colligan takes this turn is up to his discretion, but for a man to whom talent comes this effortlessly, eager listeners trust his judgment and rest easy. Here’s a man who knows what he’s doing.
Track Listing: End of a Dynasty; The Righteous; When I Go; R U Things The All?; Be Gentle; Skeletons in the Closet; Forlorning; Ghostland; Waltz For All The Things We Meant To Do And Never Did; Innocent Youth; Runaway.
Personnel: George Colliagan: piano, Fender Rhodes (2, 3, 5, 7), trumpet (10), synthesizers (2, 5, 7); Josh Ginsberg: acoustic bass, electric bass (2); Enoch Jamal Strickland: drums; Tom Guarna: guitars (2-6); Kerry Politzer: voice (3, 7), piano (10).