John O’Gallagher Trio: The Honeycomb


Originally a denizen of the west coast, John O’Gallagher (b. 1964) - alto saxophonist, composer, teacher and author – has been a first-call player in New York’s jazz scene since his move east in 1990, attaining an international reach with audiences and students through his playing, teaching, recording and writing.

Numerous sideman appearances with important jazz players, documented on record through the ‘90s and continuing into the 21st century, earned O’Gallagher increasing critical attention and public recognition; several recordings as a leader have bolstered this fine reputation. With The Honeycomb, a new trio effort featuring musical compatriots Johannes Weidenmueller (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums), O’Gallagher continues his upward trajectory as a player, composer and leader of considerable merit, demonstrating remarkable insight and studious devotion to his craft in all its facets.

O’Gallagher’s sound – crisp, bracing, impassioned, bright-toned yet multitudinous – penetrates ear and mind most effectively, immediately securing one’s attention, while his melodic lines, marked out by staccato, distinctively ringing notes and concise, segmented yet tethered lyrical outbursts, at times hurried but never harried, sound out with rigor and a refined, sharpened and shapely internal logic.

Long a serious student and proponent of the early-20th-century serialism of Anton Webern and the associated Second Viennese School, O’Gallagher employs his unique approach to these compositional techniques to produce music of high distinction; his works in both the classical and jazz idioms dazzle and reorient the committed listener with a refractive multiplicity and keening melodic profile that belie their academic origins. In composition and performance, the trio pulls this feat off most succinctly and successfully.

The slinky and slithering album opener “Uroboros” is followed by the anagrammatic “Extralogical Railman,” a track dancing with unalloyed joy and delight, much like its inspiration, the famed - if darkly back-storied – “Relaxin’ at Camarillo.” The discursive “Petulant Snoot” leads into the pointed title track, supported and carried by a memorable bass-line vamp.

And so things smartly and rewardingly continue. In place of hill and dale emotionalism is an even-tempered, yet fully engaged and involving, consistency. As the wondrous honeycomb is exactingly, instinctively woven by the colony, sustaining life, so too does this undeviating, interlocked music offer real sustenance.

John O'Gallagher's Webern Project - Op. 27 & 25 - Greenwich House, NYC, Dec 12 2013