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John O’Gallagher: Line of Sight

John O’Gallagher’s Axiom is fronted by another two-sax combination: the leader on alto and soprano and Tony Malaby on tenor. Line of Sight (Fresh Sounds New Talent) is a brainy set, spotlighting O’Gallagher’s labor-intensive compositions. O’Gallagher’s bag is non-tonal melody both improvised and composed. On the thoughtful, restrained “Effluence,” O’Gallagher plays alto with an astringent, vibrato-less tone and a quiet lyricism interspersed with flurries of concentrated activity. On up-tempo material like “Revolving Doors,” his lines are clean, fast and precise. Although there’s little blatant emotionalism to his work he can generate excitement.

Malaby has the shorter fuse of the pair; even on ballads he tends to play with a rhythmic strut that would do Michael Brecker proud. Still, he’s a compelling presence and provides a nice contrast to O’Gallagher. Bassist John Hebert and drummer Jeff Williams mostly support the horns and hold down the form to good effect. O’Gallagher’s tunes call for a great deal of ensemble precision, and the group delivers. This is highly organized music. Not much is left to chance, so if spontaneity is your thing, you should look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you’re a Steve Coleman fan, this might indeed float your boat.

Originally Published