Noted keyboardist, group leader and ubiquitous sideman George Colligan has applied his chops to the Hammond B-3 with his latest release, Mad Science, which is also the name of the trio he's assembled: guitarist Tom Guarna, drummer Rodney Holmes and guest star Gary Thomas on tenor sax and flute.
"Barbarians" is a funk-driven opener. Colligan and Thomas state the theme, then Colligan takes the first solo, dotting the landscape with single note statements that quickly merge into eloquent riffs while his left hand weighs anchor on the bass line. A moody exchange of ideas follows between Guarna and Thomas, guitar and sax apparently commenting on Colligan's statement. "Earth Signs," another funk/fusion blend, opens with Guarna skillfully negotiating a theme built upon tricky chord changes. After a nifty Colligan solo Guarna returns brimming with well-executed ideas. "Out From the Underground" has a rushhour tempo. Composer Guarna takes an inventive and complex solo, followed by a blistering attack by Colligan. The broken record effect at the bridge gives Holmes room to thrash.
"Seduction" has a strutting, lightfooted groove in the best tradition of Steely Dan. "Thought Police" begins with a fervent statement by Holmes; Thomas plays the somewhat foreboding theme then constructs an intricate, passionate solo over the group's building comp. "Alaska Basin," another Guarna tune, has a samba beat with a fusion base. After solos by Colligan and Guarna, Thomas picks up the flute, laying down as serious a groove on this instrument as he can on the sax. Colligan opens "Modieidi's Modalities" with a rapid-fire and ominous organ bass tone, Holmes rumbling above him, before taking off on an exuberant sprint along the keys. Guarna gets in the race and Thomas follows with an initially spare but eventually more expansive statement.
Mad Science is a smashing debut which showcases Colligan's talent as a composer and organist, and jazz lovers can look forward to this group woodshedding on center stage for a long time.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.