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George Colligan: More Powerful (Whirlwind)

Pianist's debut for Whirlwind, featuring Linda May Han Oh, Rudy Royston and Nicole Glover

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Cover of George Colligan album More Powerful
Cover of George Colligan album More Powerful

In just over two decades, pianist-composer George Colligan has released more than two dozen albums as a leader, served as a sideman on over a hundred more, toured with and played in the bands of Jack DeJohnette and other greats, and taught at Juilliard and several universities. He’s the type of artist for whom the phrase “best-kept secret” was coined: constantly working and too accomplished to be called a journeyman, yet rarely the first name to roll off the lips when top-10 lists are compiled.

More Powerful is a prime example of why Colligan’s stature should be elevated. The nine new compositions he’s recorded on his debut for Whirlwind, with the crack team of Linda May Han Oh (bass), Rudy Royston (drums) and Nicole Glover (tenor and soprano saxophones), are imbued with estimable technique and creativity; but, more important, they’re eminently listenable, often gripping pieces of music. “Whiffle Ball,” the postbop cavalcade that opens the program, takes off like a solid homerun slug, the core piano trio buzzing with ceaseless ferocity until, a couple of minutes in, Glover raises the bar yet again.

That capability established, they’re able to settle into a nuanced ballad, “Waterfall Dreams,” before another stomper, a full-on trio piece titled “Effortless,” affords Oh the opportunity to set the rhythmic patterns that Colligan and Royston are more than happy to run with. The back-to-back “Retrograde Pluto” and “Southwestern Silence” are more astral, and “More Powerful Than You Could Possibly Imagine” throws Glover back into the front spot. For “The Nash,” the closer, Oh and Royston again create a powerful, driving foundation for Colligan’s exceedingly impressive pianism.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album More Powerful by George Colligan on iTunes.

Originally Published