George Colligan, the pianist who has worked with everyone from Phil Woods to Cassandra Wilson, from Nicholas Payton to Vanessa Rubin, or from Gary Bartz to Don Byron, also plays trumpet, organ, and drums. And his latest album “Risky Notion” is where you can hear him solely playing the latter. With his group, the Theoretical Planets, he has come up with 10 original compositions, all drum-heavy and percussive, with the leader clearly in the foreground.
But there is ample space for his two saxophonists, his student Nicole Glover from Portland, Oregon, and Joe Manis from Eugene, Oregon, both playing alarmclock-like precision with trumpeter Tony Glausi (also from Eugene and also one of his students) on the fiery “Harmawhatics?”. Colligan has played with a lot of drummers, like Lenny White or Jack DeJohnette, but his is a conglomerate style of various eras and genres. He’s playing a lot of loose stuff on the opener “Gorgasaurus”, and later gets funky on the very open “Con Woman”.
The “Impromptu Ballad” is a fine showcase for trumpeter Glausi, a Senior in the jazz studies/trumpet performance program at the University of Oregon. He made the 1st place in the 2014 National Trumpet Competition-Jazz Division and was recognized nationally by Downbeat Magazine as an outstanding undergraduate performer. He has just the right mix of restraint and release, and can build a lot of tension in his solos.
There is intense swinging going on in “Space Gives You Time”, and there is a stretch at the end of the title track which was on the edge of unnerving me but then came to a close at just about the right time. And let’s not forget bassist Jon Lakey, another of George’s students at Portland State University, who represents a strong foundation here and who is not only accompanying, but also involved in the interpretations, like in “Transparent”.
The album has a quieter, almost sweet moment in “Phantom Friend” before a very loose and sinewy exit on “Losing Our Way”. It also can’t hurt to have the album recorded and mixed by a drummer, Sacha Muller. The next performance of the group will be on March 12th at Christo’s Pizzeria & Restaurant in Salem, Oregon.