George Colligan: Past-Present-Future

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
George Colligan: Past-Present-Future In the decade since pianist George Colligan emerged, he's established himself as a player of choice for artists like Cassandra Wilson, Don Byron, and Buster Williams. While he's yet to achieve the kind of status of Brad Mehldau, it's certainly no surprise why, in these days of shtick-inflected piano trios like the Bad Plus, Colligan remains out of the limelight. Unassuming and unaffected, there's nothing trendy about him. And while he is every bit as engaging a player as Mehldau, Mehldau's more singular focus and sense of purpose have seen him ascend to greater heights of popularity.

But Colligan is an equally deserving torch-carrier of the piano trio tradition. His latest release, the aptly named Past-Present-Future, clearly looks in all directions. And, while Colligan is a less overtly cerebral player than Mehldau, he has a similarly rich sense of harmonic depth that also places him in the company of British pianist John Taylor—someone who, after decades of working in relative obscurity, is finally being seen as an artist of significance. There is little doubt that Colligan will ultimately be held in the same high regard, and albums like Past-Present-Future clearly move him towards that day.

While the focus of the album is on standards material, Colligan tackles a number of less commonly-covered compositions. But even when he interprets a chestnut like Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," the emphasis may be on "sophisticated" harmonically, but rhythmically it charges out of the gate with what saxophonist John Stubblefield appropriately calls "The New York Roar": a strong medium-tempo swing where drummer Bill Stewart delivers a vivid Elvin Jones-like triplet feel. Bassist Vicente Archer proves himself to be a strong soloist and an empathic accompanist as he works hand-in-glove with Stewart behind Colligan's outgoing solo.

Like saxophonist Dexter Gordon, Colligan maintains an awareness of the lyrics belonging to the tunes he covers. The trio's treatment of "East of the Sun" remains respectful of the strong melody, even as Stewart's ability to ignore bar boundaries keeps their irregular-metered reading of it natural and swinging. The title track, the only Colligan-penned tune of the set, is another example of his vivacious personality. While Colligan is an elegant player who approaches even the most dissonant of voicings with a certain subtlety and rounded edge, there's nothing impressionistic about his playing—imaginative though it may be, there's little left to the imagination.

Or is there? A clear highlight of the set is his solo performance of Jaco Pastorius' classic "Three Views of a Secret," where Colligan's left hand sometimes explicitly carries the time, elsewhere only implying it. Either way it grooves.

It's possible that Colligan's failure to reach a broader audience has to do with his spreading himself stylistically across a wider landscape, at times playing electric keyboards and organ. Not that there's anything wrong with diversity, but albums like Past-Present-Future go a long way to affirming Colligan's position as one of the leading young proponents of the acoustic piano trio.

Track Listing: Sophisticated Lady; Akatumbo; East of the Sun; This Nearly Was Mine; Past Present Future; Three Views of a Secret; Cinema Paradiso; Holiday for Strings; Body and Soul; Invitation.

Personnel: George Colligan: piano); Vicente Archer: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Criss Cross | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Yellow Red Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Yellow Red Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Daylight Ghosts" CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Sounds Of 3" CD/LP/Track Review Sounds Of 3
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "Guilty Saints" CD/LP/Track Review Guilty Saints
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 18, 2016
Read "Live In Brooklyn" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!