John O’Gallagher – Beast (2024) [Official Digital Download 24bit/48kHz]

John O’Gallagher – Beast (2024)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 47:01 minutes | 509 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Whirlwind Recordings

John O’Gallagher has carved out a formidable reputation as a musician and composer who seeks to expand beyond the frontiers of jazz and into new territories of improvisational concepts. His list of collaborators is a who’s-who of adventurous improvised music. Recently he’s extended into an actual new territory, moving to Lisbon, Portugal in 2021.

This new record Beast captures him playing in front of a live audience with a new multi-generational ensemble of musicians from the fertile European improv scene. Rhythm section duties are handled by the Portuguese team of Zé Almeida on bass and drummer João Lencastre. Joining the band on piano is the German musical polymath Samuel Gapp, so that this recording marks the first time in John’s prodigious and storied career that he has recorded as a leader with the classic piano quartet line-up. “I guess it’s about time, I love piano. I did a session with Zé when I first moved here, and he sounded incredible. Then shortly after, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger introduced me to João Lencastre, who it turns out lives in my neighborhood. And João introduced me to Samuel, who has just finished a Masters Degree here in classical composition. When we first played together, the band felt so great right from the get-go. These guys are super bad – there’s a great scene here in Portugal.”

The album presents four extended improvisational settings, with half of these drawing upon John’s compositional ideas as inspiration for exploring unknown territory, manipulating timbre and density as well as pitch and rhythm. “My compositions are used as frameworks, with the caveat that they are only to be used to provide cohesion when we sense the need. Otherwise, everything’s wide open.”

‘Permeable’ moves from a startlingly dramatic opening through variations of texture and dynamic intensity over twenty minutes, allowing Sam Gapp to fully explore the reaches of the keyboard – “Sam is an amazing musician, and word is getting out about his talent.” ‘Quixotica’ is a simple composition that repeats with variations within preset tetrachordal parameters, but with an open vibe. ‘Practically Speaking’ showcases the rhythm section’s telepathic improvisational ability – “João and Zé are a fantastic team. They share the same instincts about how to frame things, and when something new needs to be generated or contrasted. Their playing breathes life to the momentum and direction of the music and allows for one musical chapter to end and another to begin.”

‘Fishing For Paramecium’ is named for an MIT professor’s thought experiment – “It’s what we try and do in music – imagine the unimagined. In this kind of open situation, where there’s very little being defined, the success of the music depends on the chemistry of the players, and with these musicians, the chemistry was immediately there – you can feel it right away. It’s the intangible we all search for.”

This album presents the next instalment in the journey of one of the music’s greatest questing musical innovators, exploring all the possibilities opening up with a new set of collaborators in a new country. “One reason for moving to Portugal was to get back to my life as a working musician, after having spent the past several years in academia. I’m a believer in having a feel for the timing of things, sensing the flow of what feels right. And that’s absolutely how this music works as well – timing and flow. My favorite thing about playing in groups like this is when something unexpected happens and the audiences senses and responds to those moments. The more that we can create those special moments, and nurture them, the better. It’s music told in a different way.”

1-01. John O’Gallagher – Permeable (21:05)
1-02. John O’Gallagher – Quixotica (10:05)
1-03. John O’Gallagher – Practically Speaking (06:26)
1-04. John O’Gallagher – Fishing for Paramecium (09:23)

John O’Gallagher – alto saxophone
João Lencastre – drums
Zé Almeida – bass
Samuel Gapp – piano


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