George Colligan: The Endless Mysteries

Not all piano trios are democracies-all too often, the bassist and drummer play second-fiddle roles. That’s not the case with The Endless Mysteries, released last fall. Although the pianist and nominal leader, George Colligan, wrote all 10 tracks on this, his 24th album as leader, The Endless Mysteries reflects an equal partnership between himself, bassist Larry Grenadier and the drummer, the irrepressible Jack DeJohnette. This even split of responsibilities isn’t exactly a surprise, as DeJohnette (whose touring band includes Colligan) has put in three decades as part of Keith Jarrett’s trio while Grenadier is a longstanding member of Brad Mehldau’s. With Colligan, though, even more than with their other employers, the rhythm section is intent on forging directions.

This is evident on the title track, a gentle ballad that finds Colligan laying out the theme and then, in no time, handing the reins over to DeJohnette and then to Grenadier. The bassist’s richly melodic solo early on gives Colligan a gentle nudge: He leaves the chordal pattern he’s been restating since the beginning and, for the remainder of the piece, continues to investigate new routes that the composition might follow. On the sprightly “Her Majesty,” DeJohnette’s frisky bossa-nova rhythm fragments into something wholly disordered midway through, cueing an explosive Grenadier solo and, eventually, a chattering flurry from Colligan that brings it to a decisive finish. “Outrage” is outright chaos, a three-and-a-half-minute free-for-all, while “Song for the Tarahumera” is a swingfest.

It’s not all teamwork though. “Thoughts of Ana,” inspired by the Newtown shootings whose victims included Ana Márquez-Greene, the daughter of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, is the recording’s most moving statement: Colligan alone, solemn and ruminative. It’s a reminder, perhaps, that amid the daily noise sometimes we need to slow down, take a moment to reflect and simply speak to ourselves. Inspirational and exhilarating all-around.

Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.