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Ornette Coleman's innovations on alto are now nearly a half-century old. That's a wide body of precedence for today's free-form straddling saxophonists to swim through. On his CIMP debut, Axiom, and a sophomore effort, Abacus, for Arabesque, O'Gallagher showed a command of existing conventions balanced by an inquisitive streak of his own. Comparisons to Dolphy were easyespecially in his penchant for rapid-fire, interval leaping sprintsbut ultimately inadequate in explaining away his talent.
His second CIMP session employs a leaner schematic of single horn, bass and drums. The sparse surroundings supply a challenge as well as an extended chance for O'Gallagher to put figurative socks in the mouths of critics questioning his instrumental ingenuity. No room to hide and as it turns out no need for an escape hatch. The disc's title is no idle appellation either, referencing as it does the trio's preternatural ability to sneak past listener defenses, only to surface in unexpected places during the context of a tune.
"Invisibility" paints this tactic in bold colors as the three players start soft, gradually congealing into forward momentum as the leader's alto winds against a minimal foundation of strummed bass, pattering brushed snare and limpid cymbal showers. Rosen's traps play turns inward their miniscule examination of fluttering beats that ebb and envelop in equal measure. Bassist Kamaguchi favors a solid, but unobtrusive plucking style. His exchange with the saxophonist in the closing minutes proves an early precursor of the close communication to come.
"Leakey's Bag" opens at a lope, but the easygoing intro is but a limbering up phase and the three men are soon once again hitting an up-tempo stride. Rosen seems to revel in the chance to play loud and fast, churning up racing current of rhythms that sometimes encroach on Kamaguchi's audibility. But the bassist won't be cowed easily. He tugs out rich bulbous figures that buoyantly float atop the drummer's most ardent stick patterns as on the rapacious interplay of "Titans Stride," where the trio quotes liberally from Trane's "Giant Steps."
There are near-misses too, such as "It's Very Deep," which seems to take it's title a bit too seriously and gets bogged down in quiet rumination, despite some beautiful soprano work from the leader and an eventual kick start into high gear by Rosen's frenetic press rolls. "Folksong" is similarly a bit too quiet for it's own good. O'Gallagher's straight horn is better served by the closing "You Ain't All That." A close conversation with Rosen's drums during the track's second half comes as a superb example of amiable improvisatory give and take. The "Vol. 1" tag on the end of the title indicates that a followup disc is not long for the can. O'Gallagher's certainly one to keep tabs on, and I'm looking forward to future salvos from his horns.
Track Listing: Invisibility/ Leakey's Bag/ It's Very Deep/ Folksong/ Titans Stride/ Point Time/ I Love You Two/ You Ain't All That.
Personnel: John O'Gallagher- alto & soprano saxophones; Masa Kamaguchi- bass; Jay Rosen- drums. Recorded: February 3, 2004, Rossie, NY.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.