May 2006

Andrew Rathbun and George Colligan
Renderings: The Art of the Duo
Fresh Sound New Talent

The label “art of the duo” seems to get slapped on every meeting between paired improvisers. It’s a cliché, yet I gotta hand it to saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and pianist George Colligan: Their collaboration is nothing if not artful.

In the olden days, their amalgam of classical music and jazz would’ve been called “third stream.” The duo plays a demanding set of classically inspired pieces that includes adaptations of compositions by impressionist Maurice Ravel and the 20th-century Spanish composer Federico Mompou. Rathbun is a remarkably precise soprano saxophonist. His pitch is dead-on, his control of the instrument and grasp of traditional expressive devices impressive. There’s a touch of Jan Garbarek in his playing, which works out quite well, as Colligan’s exquisite touch and sense of dynamics references Keith Jarrett—and those with good memories recall the rapport Garbarek and Jarrett once shared.

There’s an extraordinary intellectual rigor to this music. Spontaneity is not a defining element. Those who cherish discipline and classic musical values, however, should find much to like.

Originally published in May 2006
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