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CD Release Celebration
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George Colligan
George Colligan - piano
Tom Guarna - guitar
Rodney Holmes - drums

Keyboardist George Colligan radiates verve and ability whenever he plays. Whether he’s joining Buster Williams, Don Byron, or Cassandra Wilson as a sideman, or leading his own piano quartet on the recording Ultimatum (Criss Cross) and at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City (February 2003), Colligan attracts critical acclaim, and gains die-hard followers.

According to Jason Bivens of Cadence “Colligan's piano playing continues to impress," and Colligan has impressed not just critics with his playing and composing, but also fans (over 18,000) who voted for him to win the online competition of in 2001. Colligan also impressed a panel of music professionals, winning the Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Works Creation grant in 2003. Colligan is prolific, with 15 recordings as a leader and pianist, all with original compositions. Now Colligan explores a deeper groove with his new organ trio Mad Science.

The trio, comprised of Colligan on organ (Hammond B3 or electric), Tom Guarna on guitar (composer in his own right) and Grammy-winner Rodney Holmes on drums, is joined by Gary Thomas on saxophone and flute on the first recording Mad Science (Sunny Sky Records). The music is at once groovy and funky, but also mysterious and deeply romantic, full of Colligan’s trademark keyboard chops and inventive composition. Colligan’s latest foray into rhythm and groove may be traced to his musical roots.

Colligan began childhood studies on trumpet in his hometown of Columbia, Maryland. In high school, Colligan also taught himself drums, which he explains in a recent interview with Chris Hoven (All About Jazz) had always “caught my ear more for the rhythm than anything.” After graduating with a trumpet degree from Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1991, Colligan quit the trumpet and choose to focus exclusively on piano and jazz. To Colligan “the different rhythms in jazz and other kinds of music have always been the most interesting part. That’s what makes it special. There are so many different rhythmic possibilities and so many types of grooves, why not try to explore them all.” Colligan explores these possibilities deeply in Mad Science.

The variety and appeal is broad on this set, which starts with “Barbarians” opening with a deep, almost inaudible line from the organ, then an urgent, dark, almost sinister, melody recalling perhaps the “Land of the Lost” series. “Earth Signs” continues, showing off drummer Rodney Holmes’ flash on the skins, and lovely doubling of the challenging lines by guitarist Tom Guarna and Colligan, through quick meter changes. “Out From the Underground” evokes a mysterious thriller with a rolling bass line from the organ and a sense of chase. The next track, “Mad Science”, is not only the title of the track and recording, but also moniker of the ensemble. The lightly tripping notes that open the track suggest an off-kilter, busy little man in a lab coat, and the moments of climax during the organ solo offer the scientist moments of near-discovery, before he’s brought back to the beginning with perhaps a new experiment. “Seduction” starts low and slow, and is perfect club slow-dance music with the slinky bass line, the funky organ, and Guarna’s crooning, melodic guitar. “Thought Police” opens with a barrage from Holmes followed by a melody in insistent intervals, then almost pleading saxophone (by Gary Thomas) and organ solos. “Alaska Basin” sports an expansive, rolling melody, with tight corners, and features Thomas on flute. In “Modeidi’s Modalities” we are challenged by the well-handled, fusion-y rhythm changes.

About The Artist:

Keyboardist, composer, and drummer, George Colligan started learning music at the tender age of nine with a trumpet to his lips. Upon graduation from Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore in 1991, with a new degree in trumpet and music education, Colligan promptly quit the trumpet to focus exclusively on the piano, composition, and freelancing in the Baltimore/DC area.

Colligan moved to New York in 1995, and his credits grew to include appearances as a sideman, playing piano, Hammond B-3 organ, and synthesizers with players such as Cassandra Wilson (from 1999 to 2001, including an appearance with Wilson in the film The Score), and clarinetist Don Byron (with whom Colligan played on the a soundtrack recording for the PBS documentary, “Strange Fruit”). Other musicians who grace Colligan’s history include Michael Brecker, Don Braden, Eddie Henderson, Ravi Coltrane, David Gilmore, Ralph Peterson, Billy Hart, Lonnie Plaxico, Greg Tardy, Vanessa Rubin, Buster Williams, Stefon Harris, Lee Konitz, the Mingus Big Band, Gary Bartz, Robin Eubanks, and more. He also travels to Spain frequently as a member of the New York Flamenco Reunion, a jazz flamenco project led by Spanish drummer Marc Miralta.

Although he is in constant demand as a sideman, Colligan still devotes time to leading groups in the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, Colligan toured as a leader in Denmark, Spain, France, and Scotland. This touring also included master classes and workshops (putting his education degree to good use). Colligan has appeared on over 60 recordings including 15 as a leader released for Steeplechase, Fresh Sounds, Criss Cross, and Sunny Sky.

Colligan has demonstrated technical ability, broad audience appeal, and songwriting strength, winning the Chamber Music America/Doris Duke composer grant (2003), and the annual online competition (2001).


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