Piano-bass-drums. How often have you heard a WEMU host repeat that instrumental combination? More than you can count. Yet, this trio format remains a source of endless variation and fascination. A prime example of the possibilities is the new CD The Endless Mysteries by pianist George Colligan.
You have heard WEMU hosts repeat Colligan’s name for twenty years. We discovered him in 1993 as the pianist for saxophonist Ron Holloway. His debut recording as a leader, Activism followed in 1996 on Steeplechase Records. Since then Colligan has created a body of work for solo piano and ensemble that deserves consideration for his compositions and technique.
The Endless Mysteries deserves a weekly feature spotlight on WEMU not only for Colligan’s deft touch and musical insight but for his brilliant musical partners: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
Repeated listening to George Colligan reveals his respect for piano greats such as Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Herbie Nichols, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. Repeated listening to George Colligan also reveals a wholly original musical mind of serious emotional depth.
Two pieces especially illustrate his emotional range: Thoughts of Ana and Outrage. Both songs were composed in response to the senseless tragedy of the Newtown shootings. Thoughts of Ana is a plaintive, delicate and somber ballad dedicated to Ana Greene, daughter of saxophonist Jimmy Greene, one of Colligan’s close friends. Beautiful young Ana Greene lost her life that terrible day. Outrage is a full bore expression of anger, disbelief and rage. The two tunes are juxtaposed in the middle of the disc to make you stop, think and feel.
From the opening track, Waiting For Solitude to the closer If The Mountain Was Smooth, You Couldn’t Climb It, Endless Mysteries by George Colligan offers rhythmic excursions to gently soothe or rock you to your very core. While Colligan’s compositions spark these musical flights, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jack DeJohnette take full command of the musical strains, accenting each phrase, note and pause with instinctive and complementary responses.
Please make special note of Liam’s Lament where George Colligan displays his mastery of the melodica. This song is not a novelty number. Colligan creates dynamics and shading on the three octave-keyboard through breath control and an understanding of the spaces between the notes as well as the decay and natural reverberation of the melodica’s sound. This piece is an outstanding example of Jack DeJohnette’s skill with mallets.
Every song on The Endless Mysteries by George Colligan is worthy of a full and repeated listen. That is why it is a featured recording this week on WEMU and our CD give-away. It’s our way to turn you on to an artist deserving wider recognition, to thank you for listening and to recognize your discerning taste in music.