Even a quick glance at George Colligan's discography is easily impressive: he has twenty releases as a leader and four times that many as a sideman. Why he is so prolific can easily be heard on Blood Pressure, an album of all original compositions.
Last year's Renderings, with Andrew Rathbun on reeds, showed Colligan's classical side, with a wonderful touch and admirable restraint and communication.
Blood Pressure is essentially a piano trio record, but with two different bassists and drummers (Josh Ginsberg or Boris Kozlov; Johnathan Blake or EJ Strickland) who do not always stay paired throughout the record. The additional musicians for this set are drummer Vanderlai Pereira and Jamie Baum on flute for "Enjoy It While It Lasts, which has a distinctly Latin lilt, and violinist Meg Okura on the pretty ballad "Kerry's Theme.
One might ask who Colligan is musically, since his albums in general and the compositions here in particular range so widely stylistically. However, Blood Pressure does hold together as an album. I attribute this to Colligan's pianistic personality, which, while hard to describe, is recognizable. While he would never get confused with someone like say, Russ Lossing (see Phrase 6 or As It Grows), Colligan did substitute for Lossing in a gig with Loren Stillman's band and managed to not just hold his own, but add his voice within Stillman's extremely personal music.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having eclectic tastes, but there's also a danger therein of always being called a chameleon who brings good taste and high musicianship to a gig or session, but blends in. I am convinced that someone like guitarist Peter Bernstein, who seems to be everywhere in New York City at the same time, is busy primarily because his musical personality is not strong enough to draw attention away from the leader, despite his chops and musical taste.
That said, Colligan is an outstanding pianist and musician, and Blood Pressure is a fine album. I tend to listen to records like this as a series of loosely connected individual tracks, each of which does its own thing quite well. The album thus becomes a collection of pieces, each good in its own way, rather than a unified artistic statement.
It would be unfair to ask Colligan to become, say, Bobo Stenson or Ran Blake, both of whom are much older than he. Yet, both of these players are quite recognizable despite playing in many different situations over their careers. David Binney is another good example of someone who has adds a recognizable underpinning to a wide range of styles.
I look forward to watching Colligan in the future.
Rose Colored Glass; Debonaire; Blood Pressure; Enjoy It While It Lasts; Nightmare 1; Interiors; Big Trouble; Kerry
George Colligan: piano, synths; Josh Ginsberg: bass (1-3,7,9,14); Johnathan Blake: drums
(2,3,5,6,14); Boris Kozlov: acoustic bass (9,10,12), electric bass (4-6,11); EJ Strickland: drums
(1,7,9-12); Vanderlai Pereira: drums (4); Jamie Baum: flute (4); Meg Okura: violin (8).