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John O’Gallagher – ‘BEAST’

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    Posted: 20 May 2024 at 5:15am
John O’Gallagher – BEAST

(Whirlwind Recordings, review by Tony Dudley-Evans)


California-born alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher relocated to Portugal in 2021, after 25 years of playing in New York, and a subsequent shorter period of playing, teaching and researching into Coltrane’s improvisational structures in Birmingham.

He has clearly found a niche in Portugal as part of the strong free improvising community there.  On BEAST he leads a free-wheeling quartet with two Portuguese players, Zé Almeida on bass and Joăo Lencastre on drums – and German pianist Samuel Gapp.  

O’Gallagher has always been an extremely flexible player, playing in different styles in both small groups and big bands while in New York, and touring with Jeff Williams’s group in the UK shortly before settling here.  In Birmingham he often hooked up with improvising saxophonist Paul Dunmall and together they made some very powerful music.

On the BEAST album, recorded in a live situation, there are four tracks, two totally improvised and two built on relatively simple melodies; there is, however, a blurring of improvisation and composition throughout .  Permeable is a long improvised track lasting 21 mins; it begins very dramatically with solo bass followed by passionate alto saxophone before moving into free flowing intense group improvisation with some great interaction between O’Gallagher and Gapp before O’Gallagher steps back allowing Gapp to take an inventive solo. As the track develops, it moves between extrovert and introvert passages, often breaking down into duo or trio interaction.   The track builds up to a climax that matches the drama of the opening. 

This pattern of intense interaction and breaking down into duos and trios is repeated on the remaining three tracks; Quixotica is a shorter track based on a simple melody, as is Fishing for Paramecium.  Practically Speaking is totally improvised.  On all these tracks O’Gallagher’s playing has a strong sense of direction and he creates forceful lines that generate a strong reaction from the trio. It would appear that, at least unconsciously, he is applying some of his insights into Coltrane’s methods to his own solos. 

This is a compelling release, and one that provides evidence of the strength of the contemporary Portuguese scene and of how soon O’Gallagher has become integrated within it.

from https://londonjazznews.com

Edited by snobb - 20 May 2024 at 5:16am
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