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George Colligan Quintet: Constant Source

George Colligan, as demonstrated in these three exciting dates, is one of the brightest and most articulate new pianists on today’s scene. A composer to reckon with as well, Colligan’s music defies easy categorization. For starters, modern mainstream with an avant-garde twist seems useful. On the arresting 1998 quintet session Constant Source, for instance, Colligan’s “Void” unfolds like a journey through Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone in which the terra firma of a sinewy 4/4 pulse gradually gives way, casting us into freefalls of nightmarish wonder. On the same date, Colligan spins Tommy Dorsey’s signature ID, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” into an edgy Brubeckian time-twister. Here, the A sections of George Bassman’s 1932 standard get shoved into a 7/4 mold; for contrast, the bridge oscillates between 4/4 and 6/4 with a couple of measures of 5/8 tossed in at the end. Amazingly, Colligan and his math wizards turn the gauntlet into a spritzer with a dash of lime. Those wizards, not insignificantly, are tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, alto/soprano saxman Jon Gordon, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Howard Curtis, who are all joined at the musical hip. In his notes, Colligan speaks warmly of Monk and Shorter and their “perfect balance of focus and freedom, of clarity and complexity.” These same words also apply to Colligan’s music, his writing as well as playing, and the unusually intense interplay of this hair-raising quintet.

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