George Colligan ‘More Powerful’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

Whirlwind Recordings are rapidly becoming the premier label in the UK for contemporary jazz both home-grown and also from ‘across the pond’. I imagine that UK based USA bassist and label boss Michael Janisch is utilising all of the contacts in his address book.

Colligan is a pianist and educator of some repute. He has been quite busy during his 47 years. This is his 28th CD release as band-leader and his debut for Whirlwind. He has more than 130 albums to his credit as accompanist and has had a long association with drum legend Jack DeJohnette. His band mates on this occasion are Linda Oh on bass, Rudy Royston on drums and Nicole Glover on tenor and soprano saxophones.

The album title and the cover art is as impressive as the music to be found within.

Colligan’s keyboard influences range from Chick Corea to Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. Add to the mix Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and a liking for everything from show tunes to funk, from free improvisation to modern classical music and you have all the ingredients for today’s complete jazz pianist.

In terms of genre, Colligan is a jack of all trades and master of all of them. Readers might recall that he toured the UK with Andrew Bain’s ‘Embodied Hope’ band to great success last year.
The opening track ‘Whiffle Ball’ gets things off to a powerful start with swinging contemporary post-bop sounds and a declamatory statement from the drummer.

‘Waterfall Dreams’, in contrast, is rather more contemplative. It contains a fine showcase for the bassist.

‘Effortless’ is a trio outing. A complex piece of music and the Corea influence is in evidence here. The trio working as one to great effect.

Glover is a new name to me. I particularly enjoyed his centred, hard edged and powerful tone. Hear him at his best on ‘Today Again’. ‘Empty’ ventures into free-jazz territory and is another feature for Glover. ‘The Nash’ has echoes of another of Colligan’s influences in the form of Thelonious Monk. But a 21st Century Monk.

It’s not often that contemporary jazz contrives to be both powerful and accessible as is the case here. The power can sometimes be a little wearing on the listener. However there is no denying that this is exciting eventful music performed by musicians operating at the highest level of their craft. Their confidence is almost overwhelming, but they are at the peak of their creative powers. One is left with the feeling that the music is somewhere between being in the tradition and pushing powerfully towards things to come.

Alan Musson