John O’Gallagher ‘Trio: Live in Brooklyn’ (Whirlwind) 5/5

It seems that jazz fans are kept waiting for a new saxophone-led piano-less trio recording and then two releases appear within short order, both on the esteemed Whirlwind imprint.
Californian John O’Gallagher’s horn of choice is the alto saxophone. An instrument upon which he can push the boundaries of jazz expression and yet maintain a strong melodic element. O’Gallagher has paid his dues in the time honoured fashion, attending Boston’s famed Berklee College of Music where he studied with saxophone maestros Jerry Bergonzi and George Garzone. Since then he has managed to add many star names to his C.V. having worked with the likes of Joe Henderson, Maria Schnieder, Billy Hart, Kenny Wheeler and Tom Rainey, to name a select few.
Having established an enviable reputation in the USA, John has more recently recently crossed the Atlantic to work with students from the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire and can regularly be seen playing live around the City in various contexts.

Perhaps what makes John stand out from the crowd is the way that he draws on the contemporary classical 12-tone system as inspiration for his own compositions. A system which John Coltrane also drew upon in his solos during the later period of his life. This system allows John to create an original approach to both his compositions and his solo explorations.

What is immediately apparent from this recording of seven self-penned compositions is John’s strong saxophone tone and his feel for swing. There is nothing quite like the environment of a live gig to bring out the best in the musicians and this set is no exception. Alongside O’Gallagher we have Johannes Weidenmueller on bass and Mark Ferber at the drums. Whilst the bassist is a new name to me at least, Ferber has been active for quite some time. The trio have been together for some years and this shows in the empathy between them.

An album of “in the moment creativity”. The saxophonist often “blurs the lines between composition and conversational improvisation”.

Variety is key here with the trio at times setting up a turbulent collective dialogue and at others showing a more considered approach

Outstanding for me is “Extralogical Railman” where the trio pays homage to be-bop with their own interpretation of the Charlie Parker line “Relaxin’ at Camarillo”. Here, once again, swing is the thing.

In conclusion, I quote from O’Gallagher “We are constantly listening and taking risks, creating an atmosphere which is exciting to play in – there is no ‘wrong’. A shared trust provides the confidence to pretty much explore any avenue and be assured that everything will be OK”.

That quite nicely sums up the music on this album.

Alan Musson