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George Colligan: Runaway

Woodrow Wilkins By

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To borrow a phrase, the cat is out of the bag. George Colligan has been said to be one of the best kept secrets in jazz. With Runaway, his cover is blown.

Colligan has been a sideman for such artists as Cassandra Wilson, the Mingus Big Band and Christian McBride. He studied a variety of instruments before settling on keyboards. A product of the fusion era, he also embraces mainstream influences. He's also had associations with Ravi Coltrane, Vanessa Rubin and Phil Woods, among others.

Runaway is a bit of mainstream and a bit of fusion, with a few other things thrown into the mix. "The End of a Dynasty" is a straightforward, acoustic piece featuring Colligan on piano. "The Righteous" is a throwback to one of those early 1970s Santana instrumentals, partnered with an electronic sound expected from Weather Report or Eumir Deodato. Guitarist Tom Guarna gets things started before giving way to Colligan on the Fender Rhodes. During the leader's solo, bassist Josh Ginsburg and drummer E.J. Strickland lay down an effective groove. During one sequence, the leads repeat the same phrase several times while Strickland mixes things up on the drums. Then Colligan adds an improvised keyboard solo. The result is quite engaging.

Kerry Politzer adds voice and piano to the charming if not sad ballad, "When I Go." Her singing is ethereal, but she also contributes some wordless vocals, adding to the song's beauty. Colligan engages in a bit of wordplay with "R U Things the All?" that twists the standard "All the Things You Are" and comes up with something completely fresh. While his piano play is the focal point, the drums and bass show off a bit as well. Guarna contributes a solo worthy of Montgomery, Ritenour or Benson.

"Be Gentle" is a lesson in freedom. Though its sound is pop friendly, its length (more than eight and a half minutes) and abstract instrumentation may challenge some listeners. "Skeletons in the Closet" is much shorter, but even more abstract—a technical masterpiece with no coherent melody.

Politzer returns for "Forlorning," a hauntingly beautiful ballad. Her flutelike inflections are a highlight of this selection. The piano is superb.

The remaining tracks offer more of the same—straightforward acoustic jazz here, fusion there, unbridled musical energy everywhere. Colligan composed all 11 songs, and in addition to the piano and Fender Rhodes, he plays trumpet and synthesizers. Though the ensemble is only a quartet—a quintet on the Politzer tracks—the sound seems fuller, richer.

Track Listing: End of a Dynasty; The Righteous; When I Go; R U Things The All?; Be Gentle; Skeletons in the Closet; Forlorning; Ghostland; Waltz For All The Things We Meant To Do And Never Did; Innocent Youth; Runaway.

Personnel: George Colliagan: piano, Fender Rhodes (2, 3, 5, 7), trumpet (10), synthesizers (2, 5, 7); Josh Ginsberg: acoustic bass, electric bass (2); Enoch Jamal Strickland: drums; Tom Guarna: guitars (2-6); Kerry Politzer: voice (3, 7), piano (10).

Title: Runaway | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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