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John O’ Gallagher Trio - Live in Brooklyn Rating: 3-5 out of 5 O'Gallagher has clearly developed an excellent rapport with his colleagues and the music intuitively blurs the boundaries between composition and improvisation and between freedom and structure.

John O’Gallagher Trio

“Live in Brooklyn”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4697)

I first heard the playing of alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher in 2011 when he appeared as part of an all star American quartet led by the drummer and composer Jeff Williams on the album “Another Time”, also released on Whirlwind Recordings.

In 2012 I got to see him play live when the Williams quartet toured the UK, with the band’s music subsequently being further documented on the 2013 live recording “The Listener”, another Whirlwind release.

Like Williams O’Gallagher divides his time between the US and the UK and holds a part time teaching post at Birmingham Conservatoire. He’s therefore a reasonably familiar figure to UK jazz audiences and performs in this country on a reasonably regular basis.

Born in Anaheim, California and raised in Spokane, Washington, O’Gallagher has been an influential figure on the New York jazz scene for over twenty years. “Live in Brooklyn” is his tenth album release as a leader and his second with this chordless trio featuring bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Mark Ferber, the same line up that appeared on his most recent studio release “The Honeycomb” ( Fresh Sound New Talent).

O’Gallagher has also appeared on dozens of albums as a sideman in configurations ranging from trios to big bands with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic. Among these is “Valence” (2015) a self released live set from a trio led by Williams and featuring British bassist Sam Lasserson. 

O’Gallagher’s début for Whirlwind was “The Anton Webern Project” (2013),  a fascinating and wholly convincing contemporary jazz interpretation of the music of the Austrian composer Anton Webern (1883-1945), a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg and a leading figure of the early 20th century classical avant garde.

Compared to the Webern album “Live in Brooklyn” represents something of a return to basics as O’Gallagher and his trio stretch out at length on a series of seven O’Gallagher originals. The album was recorded on 11th November 2015 as part of the weekly concert series at Seeds in Brooklyn. The material includes interpretations of two compositions from “The Honeycomb” album plus a number of newer pieces.

O’Gallagher has clearly developed an excellent rapport with his colleagues and the music intuitively blurs the boundaries between composition and improvisation and between freedom and structure. Thus free-wheeling improvisations frequently take place within complex structural frameworks as typified by the ten minute opener “Prime” where the trio improvise around what O’Gallagher describes as “an oblique five against seven meter”. Bass and drums establish quickly establish the rhythmic framework around which O’Gallagher’s alto prowls and probes, but it’s far from being a rigid structure and the music seems to unfold naturally and organically as this most closely knit of trios react to one another’s playing. The mood varies from the gently ruminative to the fiercely declamatory with the cry of O’Gallagher’s alto complemented by Ferber’s dynamic drumming as the trio move up and down the gears almost seamlessly. There’s an interlude featuring the sound of Weidenmueller’s unaccompanied bass, effectively acting as a bridge, before O’Gallagher takes over the reins again and steers us directly into the next piece.

The title of “Extralogical Railman”, which originally appeared on the “Honeycomb” album, is an anagram of Charlie Parker’s celebrated 1947 bebop classic “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” and gives Bird’s piece a musical makeover that is just as audacious and inventive as that anagram. O’Gallagher’s fleet, fluent, consistently inventive improvising is more than a match for Parker in his pomp as the trio members filter Bird’s music through a prism shaped by Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and, of course, their own musical personalities. O’Gallagher eventually hands over to Ferber for an extended percussive outing before briefly reprising the theme.

On an album where the majority of the tracks bleed into one another we’re immediately catapulted into O’Gallagher’s virtuoso, near three minute, solo saxophone introduction to the lengthy “Credulous”.
As on the opener the music on the longer piece unfolds slowly with O’Gallagher’s opening thematic sketch superseded by a lengthy dialogue between Weidenmueller and Ferber before O’Gallagher takes over once more, skilfully directing the music towards a garrulous climax as his alto wails and soars, underscored by correspondingly energetic bass and drums. Ferber subsequently takes up the mantle with an extended drum feature that subverts the usual conventions of the drum solo as it moves from polyrhythmic busyness to the atmospheric shimmer of some particularly deft cymbal work, this last section again acting as a bridge into the following track.

The title of “Blood Ties” could be regarded as an allusion to the level of empathy between the trio members. There’s some terrific interplay here as O’Gallagher at his most fluent and imaginative is brilliantly shadowed and complemented by Ferber’s similarly inventive drumming. Both musicians exhibit similar qualities on the following “Nothing To It” with bassist Weidenmuller also playing a key role and supplying the bass solo that leads into the closing “The Honeycomb”.

The title track of the earlier album finds the trio meshing together tightly and features some of O’Gallagher’s most impassioned and virtuosic playing of the set as his scorching alto soars above the churning rhythms generated by Weidenmuller and Ferber to the obvious delight of the Brooklyn audience.

Having been lucky enough to witness O’Gallagher performing live with the Jeff Williams Quartet I can personally attest as to just what a monster player he is. He’s certainly in fine form here and is well supported by an empathic and impressive rhythm team.

That said like most live albums of predominately improvised music you probably actually had to be there to get the absolute maximum out of this performance. “Live in Brooklyn” is an absorbing and rewarding, if sometimes challenging album, but its live status means that it doesn’t quite possess the same audio quality as the rest of the Whirlwind catalogue - although it could be argued that the lack of polish is compensated by the spontaneous live rawness.

A worthwhile release then, particularly for fans of this style of jazz -  but not quite one of the jewels in the Whirlwind crown.   

 

Live in Brooklyn

John O’ Gallagher Trio

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Live in Brooklyn

O'Gallagher has clearly developed an excellent rapport with his colleagues and the music intuitively blurs the boundaries between composition and improvisation and between freedom and structure.

John O’Gallagher Trio

“Live in Brooklyn”

(Whirlwind Recordings WR4697)

I first heard the playing of alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher in 2011 when he appeared as part of an all star American quartet led by the drummer and composer Jeff Williams on the album “Another Time”, also released on Whirlwind Recordings.

In 2012 I got to see him play live when the Williams quartet toured the UK, with the band’s music subsequently being further documented on the 2013 live recording “The Listener”, another Whirlwind release.

Like Williams O’Gallagher divides his time between the US and the UK and holds a part time teaching post at Birmingham Conservatoire. He’s therefore a reasonably familiar figure to UK jazz audiences and performs in this country on a reasonably regular basis.

Born in Anaheim, California and raised in Spokane, Washington, O’Gallagher has been an influential figure on the New York jazz scene for over twenty years. “Live in Brooklyn” is his tenth album release as a leader and his second with this chordless trio featuring bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Mark Ferber, the same line up that appeared on his most recent studio release “The Honeycomb” ( Fresh Sound New Talent).

O’Gallagher has also appeared on dozens of albums as a sideman in configurations ranging from trios to big bands with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic. Among these is “Valence” (2015) a self released live set from a trio led by Williams and featuring British bassist Sam Lasserson. 

O’Gallagher’s début for Whirlwind was “The Anton Webern Project” (2013),  a fascinating and wholly convincing contemporary jazz interpretation of the music of the Austrian composer Anton Webern (1883-1945), a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg and a leading figure of the early 20th century classical avant garde.

Compared to the Webern album “Live in Brooklyn” represents something of a return to basics as O’Gallagher and his trio stretch out at length on a series of seven O’Gallagher originals. The album was recorded on 11th November 2015 as part of the weekly concert series at Seeds in Brooklyn. The material includes interpretations of two compositions from “The Honeycomb” album plus a number of newer pieces.

O’Gallagher has clearly developed an excellent rapport with his colleagues and the music intuitively blurs the boundaries between composition and improvisation and between freedom and structure. Thus free-wheeling improvisations frequently take place within complex structural frameworks as typified by the ten minute opener “Prime” where the trio improvise around what O’Gallagher describes as “an oblique five against seven meter”. Bass and drums establish quickly establish the rhythmic framework around which O’Gallagher’s alto prowls and probes, but it’s far from being a rigid structure and the music seems to unfold naturally and organically as this most closely knit of trios react to one another’s playing. The mood varies from the gently ruminative to the fiercely declamatory with the cry of O’Gallagher’s alto complemented by Ferber’s dynamic drumming as the trio move up and down the gears almost seamlessly. There’s an interlude featuring the sound of Weidenmueller’s unaccompanied bass, effectively acting as a bridge, before O’Gallagher takes over the reins again and steers us directly into the next piece.

The title of “Extralogical Railman”, which originally appeared on the “Honeycomb” album, is an anagram of Charlie Parker’s celebrated 1947 bebop classic “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” and gives Bird’s piece a musical makeover that is just as audacious and inventive as that anagram. O’Gallagher’s fleet, fluent, consistently inventive improvising is more than a match for Parker in his pomp as the trio members filter Bird’s music through a prism shaped by Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and, of course, their own musical personalities. O’Gallagher eventually hands over to Ferber for an extended percussive outing before briefly reprising the theme.

On an album where the majority of the tracks bleed into one another we’re immediately catapulted into O’Gallagher’s virtuoso, near three minute, solo saxophone introduction to the lengthy “Credulous”.
As on the opener the music on the longer piece unfolds slowly with O’Gallagher’s opening thematic sketch superseded by a lengthy dialogue between Weidenmueller and Ferber before O’Gallagher takes over once more, skilfully directing the music towards a garrulous climax as his alto wails and soars, underscored by correspondingly energetic bass and drums. Ferber subsequently takes up the mantle with an extended drum feature that subverts the usual conventions of the drum solo as it moves from polyrhythmic busyness to the atmospheric shimmer of some particularly deft cymbal work, this last section again acting as a bridge into the following track.

The title of “Blood Ties” could be regarded as an allusion to the level of empathy between the trio members. There’s some terrific interplay here as O’Gallagher at his most fluent and imaginative is brilliantly shadowed and complemented by Ferber’s similarly inventive drumming. Both musicians exhibit similar qualities on the following “Nothing To It” with bassist Weidenmuller also playing a key role and supplying the bass solo that leads into the closing “The Honeycomb”.

The title track of the earlier album finds the trio meshing together tightly and features some of O’Gallagher’s most impassioned and virtuosic playing of the set as his scorching alto soars above the churning rhythms generated by Weidenmuller and Ferber to the obvious delight of the Brooklyn audience.

Having been lucky enough to witness O’Gallagher performing live with the Jeff Williams Quartet I can personally attest as to just what a monster player he is. He’s certainly in fine form here and is well supported by an empathic and impressive rhythm team.

That said like most live albums of predominately improvised music you probably actually had to be there to get the absolute maximum out of this performance. “Live in Brooklyn” is an absorbing and rewarding, if sometimes challenging album, but its live status means that it doesn’t quite possess the same audio quality as the rest of the Whirlwind catalogue - although it could be argued that the lack of polish is compensated by the spontaneous live rawness.

A worthwhile release then, particularly for fans of this style of jazz -  but not quite one of the jewels in the Whirlwind crown.   

 


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