Friday, May 24, 2013

John O'Gallagher - The Anton Webern Project (Whirlwind Recordings, 2013)

Using the classical works of the composer Anton Webern as a jumping off point, alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher re-imagines the composer's work for a jazz ensemble that includes Matt Moran on vibraphone, Pete McCann on guitar, Russ Lossing on keyboards, Johannes Weidenmuller on bass, Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Margret Grebowicz contributes vocals. If I didn’t know beforehand that the music was based on classical compositions, I never would have guessed as the arrangements work very well and leave the band a large palette to improvise from. The vocals are often used as wordless scats, an instrument in its own right, somewhat akin the work that Jen Shyu has done for Steve Coleman’s groups. “Schnell” leads off the album with a bright and confident statement working in a post-bop modern jazz milieu with complex and intertwined instruments. “Quartet” focuses on O’Gallagher’s saxophone, building a strong and powerful statement amidst driving accompaniment. The finale, “All in This World” brings the whole group back together, anchored by Grebowicz’s freestyle voice acrobatics. The performance develops into a nice series of solo statements for Maneri along with saxophone and guitar, before once again bringing everyone together to close. This program worked pretty well, tasked with the difficult job of bringing classical music from nearly a century ago and trying to make it relevant to the modern jazz scene. Anton Webern Project -

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