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George Colligan: Come Together

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Mathematically, it would be well nigh impossible to count the multitude of sensory organs and multiplicity of fingers (and thumbs) at work in pianist George Colligan on Come Together. Sometimes they work in unison, while at other times quite independent of each other, to produce daring polytonality. In a voice as charismatic as an evangelist at a convention, Colligan often sounds blasé and forthright; but there are times, when the music calls for it; that he turns so soft and hermetically reticent as to seem almost withdrawn. But he is merely interpreting the music as it should be—with precision, elasticity and evolving sentiment.

The modal aspects of this music are strong and Colligan plays it all with a steely muscularity. More often he adds dazzling lines of invention, as on "Come Together," where he extrapolates on the melody, organically extending the harmonics. These improvisations come in thick foamy waves, tossed out from the internal melody and, because Colligan is quick-witted, there may often be many ideas simultaneously. Happily, however, they flow one into the other, and always have a beginning, middle and end. The pianist's ensemble playing, leading up to his solo in "Have No Fear" and up to when the mighty bassist, Boris Kozlov takes over, is a case in point.

Stylistically a chameleon, Colligan bends like a reed in the wind, giving way to the myriad harmonic ideas of musical coloration from Kozlov and melodist, rhythmist and drummer, Donald Edwards. The dramatic irony of "So Sad I Had to Laugh" is developed with gentle sentimentality, from wit to tears, with beautiful simplicity. The whole trio is aglow here, with Edwards' tremulous brush work sounding like a shiver running down the spine as the story unfolds. And Kozlov—right down to his mournful arco passage at the end—shows why he is so highly rated and holds down the bass chair in the Mingus Big Band His arco solo on "To The Wall" is pure genius.

Colligan's inflections, as he traipses across the rhythmic melody of "Reaction," and his percussive angularity on tracks including "Have No Fear" and "Uncharted Territory," are a strong testament to kinsmanship with the musical politic of pianists like Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols and Don Pullen. On "The Shadow of Your Smile," Colligan states the melody—only just—and then flies in the face of convention as he deconstructs the Mandel/Webster standard. Then, as Colligan surfaces for air, Kozlov takes flight and Edwards marks time before he makes a short rhythmic odyssey.

In trio settings, the individual virtuosic brilliance of the musicians involved is too close for comfort as they constantly play off each other. There is also a heightened sense of empathy that keeps the body and soul of the trio together. There is plenty of it in Keith Jarrett's outstanding trio, and in George Colligan's fine trio as well.

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.

Personnel: George Colligan: piano; Boris Kozlov: bass; Donald Edwards: drums.

Title: Come Together | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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