By Bob Doerschuk | Published September 2019
The piano trio epitomizes the idea of balance. Its members create their own blueprint, leaving the line between improvisation and composition as blurry—or rigid—as they like. Movement between these worlds happens in real time and in advance, on charts or in the moment. In this sense, the trio is both elemental and endlessly intriguing.
On Again With Attitude, the lineup is stellar: three distinguished journeymen, including bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White, open to any possibility. And pianist George Colligan wrote most of the muisc here, which means they have solid material to work with.
Take, for example, “Lost On 4th Avenue,” which opens and ends with sections rooted on the I chord. The first unfolds languidly, after which the composition takes shape as a stream of changes punctuated by occasional accents or truncated phrases. It spins far enough away from conventional structure to feel fresh, enabling a more deft and intensifying interaction, until that second I-chord section begins. By this time, the trio slips into a funk feel, heavy on the backbeat, which contrasts with and satisfactorily recalls the top. Again, balance.
A similar approach enriches “Always And Forever,” a ballad beautifully tailored for exploration, artfully harmonized with hints of “The Way We Were” and “Skylark” in the melody. A few Monk standards appear, too, “Well You Needn’t” being the most adventurous with its sizzling tempo and playful animation of the theme. So what if no new trails are blazed? When the format is perfect and the players are masters, an album this strong is more than enough.
Again With Attitude: L’s Bop; Lost On 4th Avenue; Again With Attitude; Waltz 1; Christina; A Different Place; Monk’s Dream; False Valse; Well You Needn’t; Always And Forever; Usain. (54:31)
Personnel: George Colligan, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Lenny White, drums.