George Colligan - piano
Linda May Han Oh - double bass
Rudy Royston - drums
Nicole Glover - tenor and soprano saxophone
Recorded at Big Orange Sheep, Brooklyn, NY
Engineered by Michael Perez-Cisneros
Mixed and Mastered by Kamilo Kratc at Astoria Soundworks
Executive Producer Michael Janisch
Original artwork and design by Alban Low
released June 30, 2017
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Pianist and composer George Colligan has cemented his reputation through innumerable bandstand appearances as soloist and sideman, including collaborations with artists such as Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, Don Byron and Cassandra Wilson – and his prolific studio output has been documented on over a hundred albums. For this first release on Whirlwind, More Powerful, he leads a vibrant trio and quartet session of original music with artists with whom he has enjoyed a long association – double bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Rudy Royston – plus rising saxophonist Nicole Glover.
In this nine-track recording, the pianist’s music is influenced by life experiences and fleeting soundbites, as well as the players he is privileged to work with – and it’s very much his forward-looking integrity which fires these accessible compositions: “My artistic goals are based on musical development. I respect the foundations of the tradition, but also feel the music has to progress, employing the elements of creativity and surprise”. Colligan explains that his compositions (a number of which, here, have been awaiting their first recorded documentation) are just the beginning, preferring not to spend too long on their genesis: “It’s great to present my music to a band I trust, and if they interpret it another way… well, I’m open to that. Not only is it exciting, I also respect what they contribute. It’s actually easier and more fun to embrace that – and I find myself being inspired back”.
The playful qualities of ‘Whiffle Ball’ recall, for the leader, fond memories of playing the backyard baseball game with his father, its piano improvisations and expansive chordal riffs inviting equally breathless soprano across its fast swing. Amongst Colligan’s older piano trio tunes, ‘Waterfall Dreams’ contrasts quiet, reflective pools with percussively-laced bass extemporizations; and the complexity of ‘Effortless’ (a nod to Kenny Werner’s book ‘Effortless Mastery’) is based on the notion of something on paper seeming difficult, yet is more about the actual perception of whether or not it’s challenging (“If you think it’s hard, then it will be hard; but if you decide it’s easy…”).
‘Today, Again’ represents the repetitive busyness of ‘a day in the life’ through rhythmically purposeful, melodic tenor and piano lines and the resultant, boisterous improv – this quartet with Glover is the polar opposite of prosaic. Obi-Wan Kenobi fans will recognize the reference in raucous title track ‘More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine’ (from the very first Star Wars movie) whose McCoy Tyner-like, heavy-rooted drive heads into unbridled saxophonic chaos (Colligan enjoys the powerful way the melody fits with the pounding figure, describing it as a piece which could go in so many different directions); and conversational ‘Empty’ is a fluid tenor showcase.
The first of three compositions written at the piano in the quietness of Carefree, Arizona, mysterious ‘Retrograde Pluto’ originates from an astrological reference overheard in an unresolved conversation Colligan recalls: “’Well, it’s Retrograde Pluto – you know what that means?’ and I thought, ‘What does it mean; is the world going to end?’!” The dry, night-time humidity of ‘Southwestern Silence’ suggests the wide-open desert spaces of Arizona (“It’s very, very quiet – if you have any paranoid thoughts, they’re only going to get louder!”); and high-spirited ‘The Nash’ (after the Phoenix jazz club that the pianist has played) is unashamedly jaunty, even anarchic.
“For me”, says Colligan, “it’s more about letting things happen, rather than controlling. I already know what’s going to happen in many situations, in a world that can have so many restrictions. But with music, I’d rather not know. It’s a chance to be surprised – as improvisers, we’re legally allowed to do that – otherwise it’s like having a time machine (“there’s a time machine right over there”) but never using it! Charlie Parker is now thought of as ‘traditional’; but at the time, he was breaking new ground, a revelation. So, with ‘modern mainstream’, I love to challenge the notion of what’s contemporary and what’s old-fashioned. Working with Linda, Rudy and Nicole, their ability to react and respond is amazing”.
"Captivating and unpredictable."
★★★★ The Guardian
"More Powerful showcases Colligan's colourful use of a jazz vocabulary in the modernist tradition... It's far more than a blowing session."
"You really get to know what these guys are about straight out of the gate, as the album-opening 'Clairvoyant Jest' struts and capers, stops and starts so everybody gets a moment (or three or four) in the spotlight, and generally lets you know that for the next 43 minutes, attention must be paid."
"This set of sprightly numbers all penned by Colligan, don't hold back at any time... The sheer vitality of his playing is truly remarkable, his tunes uniformly memorable and vibrant."
★★★★ All About Jazz
“Boundless creativity without ever forgetting the importance of a beautiful melody.”
"More Powerful" may be one of the hardest-hitting contemporary jazz records you'll hear this year."
"A thoughtfully programmed, impressively accomplished affair that should win Colligan plenty of new admirers."
“This is powerful, accessible, exciting contemporary jazz by a crack team of high-level operatives, treading a fine line between maintaining the tradition and pushing at the frontiers.”