Channelling his inner Obi-Wan Kenobi – Star Wars fans feel free to intone in your best stentorian voice “You can’t win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” – cult US pianist George Colligan, 47, certainly is not one to let grass grow under his feet that is on his return from dreaming about “a galaxy far far away” as his tally of 28 albums as a leader testifies.
What’s he best known for? Well oddly it is as much his sideman work as his own output as leader thinking particularly of when he dazzled at the cutting edge with Ravi Coltrane on one of the saxophonist’s finest albums, the pulsating Mad 6 and how he showed that he can also be that bit rootsier too say on Marcus Printup’s New Boogaloo. You can already hear the Colligan influence on new players coming along, such as Victor Gould it struck me recently thinking about his definitive stamp on quartal harmony for instance and that invigorating commanding way of his at fast tempi vaulting change upon change regardless and yet letting the music breath no matter how much he layers cluster upon cluster to teeter on the borderlands of dissonant free fall.
The bustling title track of which can be heard on marlbank above features the Portland, Oregon-based player along with current Pat Metheny bassist Linda Oh, drummer Rudy Royston, well known for his work with Bill Frisell, and relative unknown Portland connection Nicole Glover on tenor and soprano saxophones is coming out in the early summer, Colligan now signed for this release to Michael Janisch’s London-based Whirlwind Recordings. Back in late-2016 Colligan no stranger to the UK was touring here with Janisch, drummer Andrew Bain and tenorist Jon Irabagon, the new album however recorded with these different US-based personnel back in the States in Brooklyn as it happened. Colligan alluding to a hint of his approach says succinctly on the album’s Bandcamp page heralding release: “With ‘modern mainstream’, I love to challenge the notion of what’s contemporary and what’s old-fashioned.”