George Colligan: Como La Vida Puede Ser (How Life Could Be)
Some of the greatest jazz talents are known not only for being talented instrumentalists, but also for their prowess in the area of original composition. Names that come to mind would have to include Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and of course, Duke Ellington. While George Colligan certainly has not yet achieved the name recognition of any of the gentleman in the above list, his originals are often light years beyond the norm in terms of ingenuity and substance. As a pianist, he's technically quite endowed, with a touch and feel for dramatic development that help make his solo forays go beyond mere technical exhibition.
An extension of Desire, a 1999 Fresh Sound date, Como La Vida Puede Ser again features an able group of Spaniards that Colligan befriended a few years ago. Lead horn Perico Sambeat comes across with a beguiling and tart voice on alto that recalls American contemporaries such as Kenny Garrett and Jon Gordon, with bassist Mario Rossy and drummer Marc Miralta forming a lithe and supportive rhythm section.
A strong flamenco influence can be heard throughout, with the opener, "El Gitano de Nueva York," particularly illustrative. The band even adds some handclapping in parts to reinforce the groove. "Underdog" is a stout bossa in the unlikely meter of 13/8. Like the best composers, Colligan has not chosen this odd meter just for novelty's sake, but has let the long form melody dictate the underlying pulse. Another unusual meter and some extra rhythmic peppering aid "Piedra Solar" in its trek down a long and shadowy road, Colligan throwing in a sly Herbie quote during his first solo turn.
The centerpiece of the album is logically enough the title track. An energetic romp with a terse melody voiced by soprano sax and harmonica, we find Colligan's trumpet engaging in call and response mode over the tune's subsequent development. His piano spot builds great momentum, the chords bounding in and out of time like a lively box of Mexican jumping beans.
Showing a more delicate side to his work, "First Kiss Goodbye" utilizes a straight eighth note feel, with Sambeat's soprano giving things a cheery inflection. Rossy contributes a deft solo, his sound recorded so vividly that you can clearly hear every string buzz and snap. Two standards also get a boost via Colligan's renovations, with "I Fall in Love Too Easily" featuring him on trumpet (George also plays drums quite well, by the way!) and "Conception" benefiting once again from some unusual rhythmic subdivisions.
So, once again Colligan has come up with an international meeting of the minds that confirms the universal power of music and of jazz, in particular. While it may take some looking to find this set, the work will more than be rewarded upon close aural examination.
Track Listing: El Gitano de Nueva York, Underdog, Piedra Solar, Sobre Como La Vida Puede Ser, Happiness Was..., First Kiss Goodbye, I Fall In Love To Easily, Conception
Personnel: George Colligan (piano, trumpet on tracks 4 & 7, synthesizers, palmas), Perico Sambeat (alto, soprano, and tenor saxophones, palmas), Mario Rossy (acoustic bass), Marc Miralta (drums and percussion), Guillermo McGill (cajon on tracks 3 & 4), Antonio Serrano (harmonica on track 4), Tom Guarna (acoustic guitar on track 4)