One of the best-kept secrets in jazz, pianist George Colligan has developed an intrepid attitude that goes hand-in-hand with a strong sense of identity. That was just as apparent on his first date as a leader for SteepleChase, Activism
, as it is on this latest excursion into trio territory. Tunes such as Charles Tolliver’s “Right Now” or Billy Harper’s “The Priestess” were not really created for the piano, their lines voiced more easily by a horn player, yet Colligan fashions his own interpretations by making up for a scarcity in melodic content via a full exploitation of the rhythmic capabilities of the piano. In fact, Colligan’s style is distinguished by a graceful equilibrium, his harmonic knowledge complemented by an advanced sense of rhythm that is rare for a pianist.
With chops to spare, Colligan tackles a distinctive if slightly obscure set of numbers while welding the uncommon ability to bring new life into each interpretation. In his hands, the pop ditty “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” emerges without the banal sentimentality and with every possible nuance wrung from its structure. Imagine McCoy Tyner mixed with just a dash of Cecil Taylor, if you will. Yet, Colligan can manage a heartfelt ballad without a hitch too, a lovely take on Kenny Wheeler’s “For Jan” a beautiful case in point.
Of course, to get down with the serious business at hand no less than a world class rhythm section will do. No problem there- bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart follow every hairpin turn, even anticipating Colligan’s moves at times. What we have here is 66 ½ minutes of piano trio jazz at the pinnacle of perfection. ‘Nuff said!