Saxophonist John O'Gallagher, a veteran New York player, has been heard in Joe Henderson and Bob Belden's big bands as well as with the much under appreciated players Pete McCann and Ron Horton. He has made some ambitious recordings, including Abacus
(Arabesque, 2003), with Ben Monder, and Line of Sight
(FSNT, 2005), with Tony Malaby, as well as previous trio sessions on CIMP.
On Dirty Hands, O'Gallagher presents the jazz equivalent to rock's power trio. Stripping his compositions down to sax, bass and drums bares all. Fortunately, both his designs and playing hold up extraordinarily well in this open environment.
O'Gallagher toured as a trio with longtime bassist Masa Kamaguchi and veteran drummer Jeff Williams before recording this session in Portugal. The music is a fine mix of composed and improvised music. As O'Gallagher has a passion for tight compositions, the penned works are determined and crafty pieces.
From the gun he slams the ears with the high octane "Bed Bugs," which is part Jackie McLean, part Steve Coleman. His "any questions?"' attitude is carried through to the waltz-like "Borderline," reminiscent of early Ornette Coleman. Even though O'Gallagher is capable of carrying the entire affair, this is a working group, and Kamaguchi and Williams shine throughout.
Three of the tracks are purely improvised, yet they are not without structure. The bassist opens "Orientations," and the interplay sculpts a coherent chamber piece that maintains momentum. Conversely the longest piece, "Lessons Of History," is a nearly 16-minute improvisation that meanders, picking up momentum as it advances. The composed pieces are complex on "F Line," muscular on "Borderline" and soulful on "Time Finds Its Way."
O'Gallagher, Williams and Kamaguchi have made a power trio statement as strong as any working trio in jazz today.