George Colligan has been on the New York scene since moving to Brooklyn in 1995. .In addition to his work as a bandleader, George plays regularly with the bands of Buster Williams, Don Byron, Lonnie Plaxico, Robin Eubanks, and David Gilmore. He has toured, recorded ,and/or performed as a sideman with Cassandra Wilson, Gary Bartz, Gary Thomas, Steve Coleman, Eddie Henderson, Ralph Peterson, Vanessa Rubin, Steve Wilson, Jane Monheit, Ravi Coltrane, Lenny White, Michael Brecker, Mike Clark, Nicholas Payton, Shiela Jordan, Janis Siegel, Christian McBride, Billy Hart, Charles Fambrough, Mingus Big Band, Rodney Holmes, Mark Turner, David Binney, Don Braden, Shunzo Ono, Lee Konitz and Stefon Harris, among others .
George recently released Mad Science (Sunny Sky). This new recording features a trio in which George plays exclusively Hammond B-3 organ. The CD release occurred in November 2003 as part of the new Late Night Groove Series at the Blue Note in New York City. George Colligan and Mad Science have also performed in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago.
George recently appeared on the Marian McPartland Piano Jazz program. The show will be aired in the Spring of 2004.
George Colligan is a winner of a 2003 Chamber Music America Grant for New Jazz Works. Only 11 entrants were awarded these prestigious grants. The substantial funding will be used for at least two concert presentations of a suite of compositions entitled Post 9/11.The suite was written for the George Colligan Quartet, which features Gary Thomas, Drew Gress and Ralph Peterson. This group also received an Arts International Grant, which enabled them to do a tour of the U.K. and Ireland in the spring of 2003. The Quartet appears on Ultimatum (Criss Cross) which was released in the spring of 2002.
In 2001, George began working with clarinetist Don Byron. The itinerary with Mr. Byron has so far included a Stravinsky concert in Vienna, several duo concerts, a soundtrack recording for Strange Fruit(a PBS documentary), a Six Musicians tour of the U.S., and a quintet tour with concerts in Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Macedonia. George has performed with Mr. Byron in his Jungle Music project, which features early works of Ellington, and Bug Music, which features music of Raymond Scott. As part of Byronís Symphony Space Ensemble, George played keyboards and samples on a concert celebrating Sugar Hill, the record label of rap music in the early 80ís.
Also worth noting is George's work with the Lonnie Plaxico Group, where George also plays Hammond B-3 organ and synthesizers. The group has toured Europe, Japan, and the U.S. George appears on Plaxicoís new CD for the Sirocco label, as well as a CD on the Blue Note label and a live CD.
Other highlights of George's activities includes his tenure with Grammy winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson from 1999 to 2001. Not only did George tour with her in Japan, North America, and almost every country in Western Europe, but he appears with Cassandra in The Score, a movie which features Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton.
George Colligan also won the 2001 jazzconnect.com competition. The winner was decided by over 18,000 voters deciding between 3 finalists. The prize included a gig at Blues Alley in Washington D.C. Also included in the prize was a recording of the gig: Live At Blues Alley is now available on CD.
Included in the 60 or so recordings that George appears on are 11 that he has released as a leader for the Steeplechase and Fresh Sound labels. The most recent Steeplechase recording is A Wish, a duo session with Danish bass player Jesper Bodilsen. Como la Vida Puede Ser was recently released on the Fresh Sound Label and features Flamenco and Latin influenced original compositions.
George was born in Summit, New Jersey, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland, a suburban town between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. His first instrument was the trumpet, although he did take piano lessons for a brief period at age seven. George became more serious about the trumpet in Grade 6 when his teacher, Lee Stevens, inspired him to listen intelligently to many different styles of music, particularly jazz and 20th century classical music. It was clear that George was to pursue music as a career, although less clear was in what capacity. In 1987, George enrolled at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore as a trumpet and Music Education major. However, during his time at Peabody, his interest in the piano and jazz became stronger and he started gigging in hotels and clubs in town.
In 1990, George participated in a one month summer jazz workshop at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada. The faculty there included Steve Coleman, Robin and Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Cowell, Kenny Wheeler, Rufus Reid, and Marvin "Smitty" Smith.
Upon graduation from Peabody in 1991, George promptly quit the trumpet to focus exclusively on the piano. He was freelancing more in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, playing with many different bands at night while practicing hard during the day, developing his chops, learning tunes and transcribing solos of the piano masters. He also began composing more frequently. Additionally, George was the director of the Peabody Jazz Ensemble from 1991 to 1993. Upon moving to D.C. in 1993, he continued freelancing and also had a number of private piano students.
In 1994 George was a semifinalist in two piano competitions; in Indianapolis and Jacksonville respectively. Although George was extremely in demand in the Baltimore/Washington scene, he had aspirations of tackling the Big Apple, and when Gary Bartz invited him to join his band for a week at Sweet Basil's, George decided to make the move to New York.
Have a question for George or a comment about his music? Please post it here.
Has George played any gigs with a member of the older generation? If so, who, and did he learn anything from the experience?
Hi , this is George Colligan, and I am pleased to be a guest in this forum. In response to the first question - yes, I have played with musicians of an older generation and of course I have learned a great deal. By older, I mean older than me( I'm 33, will be 34 on Dec 29.) Most of the musicians I work with, even some of whom I call for my own projects, are older, although I just did a Criss Cross record and I used bassist Vicente Archer, a mere 25 years old. But obviously, older musicians tend to have more experience and know a lot of stuff that I don't. When I was in Cassandra Wilson's band, we did these soundchecks where she and bassist Lonnie Plaxico would jam on old Motown and R+B tunes, most of which I didn't know, and if I had at least heard them before, had never played. They never once repeated a song for the entire nine-week tour.
Also, I have been working with Don Byron for the past 2 years, and this guy really knows a lot of music! I have been part of his Symphony Space Orchestra, and so far, we have featured the music of Stravinsky, Raymond Scott, Earth Wind and Fire, The Sugar Hill Gang, and even Herb Alpert! Not to say that repertoire is the only thing I've learned, but that's one important example of what I've gotten from older musicians. I worked with Gary Bartz for a few years, and that was a great education, but I had also seen him play a lot in Baltimore, so i already had a knowledge of his repertoire. I am going to record next week with Buster Williams and Lenny White, two legendary musicians who are always teaching me new things musically.
Just wondering if anything changes in your attitude towards a gig from the small "pubs and clubs" circuit to the big Cassandra Wilson type venue.
Friends of mine who are musicians, say they enjoy the pub type venues, where they know that there will be a small coterie of "listeners" and a majority only there for the beer. It allows them to experiment a bit and share a joke with the listeners, and be much more relaxed
Hello George. I'd like to say that I'm impressed, and a bit envious and jealous and feeling sorry for myself that you've had a beaucoup of experience playing with so many excellent players and I haven't.
So, lets get down to the important stuff. When you were a kid did you feel deprived of gifts and attention because your birthday fell so close to Christmas and New Years?
I couldn't think of anything serious at the moment, but, felt that I had to say something.
A lot of good arguments are ruined by some fool who knows what he's talking about.
Hi George. Shoutouts from Columbus all around. We enjoyed your playing with Lonnie and then Vanessa Rubin, a year ago...
- are you going to record with a Rhodes piano again in the near future?
Support improvised music in the state of confusion. www.iceboxshows.com
I haven't spent much time on message boards, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see that people are checking this out. Let's see.....I would like to record with Rhodes soon, in fact, I am doing my second installment of "Post 9-11" at Smoke in NYC on Dec 18th, and we are going to record. I will be playing Rhodes for the whole thing. It's the same group that was on my first Criss Cross CD-Gary Thomas, Drew Gress and Ralph Peterson. I don't have definite plans to release it but I'm hoping that down the road there will be some interest.
Yes, I did feel deprived occasionally having my birthday so close to Christmas, but my parents always got me something for both. The whole Christmas thing gets old the older you get anyway......I felt bad sometimes because my birthday was never during the school year, so I was never one of those people that other students would have a party at school. I was not a super popular kid , I've always been more introverted and shy. I think I've come out of it a bit as an adult, just because as a musician I always am meeting new people and I'm much less self concious now.
Also, you shouldn't be jealous of me! We all have dreams and aspirations. I've been lucky to have work in the music field, but I also work very hard and I have made many sacrifices. Many college grads my age have a big house and a car and kids and all that, job security, pension plan. This is a tough business. And there are still a lot of great musicians that I have yet to work with. I know what you mean, sometimes I look at other people and say" Man I wish I was in there shoes..." but they might have some hardships that you don't know about. I did a 4 day tour of the U.K. with my own band this past spring. It was my first real tour in which I brought a band from the U.S., and we had some major difficulties with tickets and overweight charges, very unpleasant.Also while I was there, I went online and came upon the itinerary of E.S.T., otherwise known as Esbjorn Svensen Trio.(Correct my spelling, anyone?)They had probably 50 gigs straight through. At first, I was envious. Then when I thought about how much difficulty I had to be responisble for during 4 days, imagine what could go wrong in 50! Maybe some won't agree with that perspective, but I'm just saying, be careful what you wish for.
Tenorman, I didn't forget you! I think the biggest difference between clubs and concert venues is ---the money! Cassandra tried to move away from clubs because you just can't get the same fees. Airline tickets and hotels are getting more and more expensive, and unless you have grants, it makes it hard to make it work.
I love certain clubs, especially in Europe. I hate to say it, but most of the high level clubs in the states don't hold a candle to what would be considered a second tier club in Hamburg, Germany, etc.... I played in Moscow for the first time last month, and the club we played at was really nice. And consider that the poverty level in Russia is extemely high, that they would have a nice jazz club with international acts coming through all the time, well , it was a pleasant surprise! I don't think Baltimore has a club like this(Baltimore being the birthplace of Billie Holliday!).
I prefer a listening audience, regardless of the type of venue. I am used to experimenting all the time, and I don't think one should play it safer in a concert as opposed to a noisy club. I am amazed ,as a performer and listener at Detour on 13th st in NY, the level of music being made and the total indifference of the patrons. There are other places in NY like this, too. Sometimes I think New York is the worst place to play, due to the jaded audiences, low money, low respect for musicians, etc.... but there are exceptions. The Village Vanguard is still a great place to play and hear music.I saw Steve Coleman at the Jazz Gallery a few times and the audience was whisper quiet, the place was packed. I saw Carla Kilstadt at Tonic play SOLO VIOLIN , some original, avant garde-ish type of stuff, and you could hear a pin drop. Smoke is a great venue, Paul the owner really respects the musicians and cares about the sound. The clubs in New York that I don't like I guess I won't mention, but let's just say that there are some places that I feel like I'm "working",more than playing.
I would have to go on a case by case basis, but in general I would go for the concert hall. Or a really high level club, like the Blue Note in Tokyo, or Porgy and Bess in Vienna, Moods in Zurich, stuff like that.....
George, a while back I got a call from the White House. The first thing they asked me was how to pronounce your name. (weird, eh?)
Anyway, Iím assuming you played there and was wondering how the gig went? Did you get a chance to mingle?
Hey, George! I'm glad to hear that you are recording with Buster Williams and Lenny White. That will be on my buy list. I had the fortune to catch your gig with them at the VV last year, and really enjoyed it. You played up a storm too! Thanks for sharing your time with us.
Yes, I am excited to record with Buster Williams and Lenny White, jazz legends to be sure.Also, Stefon Harris will be on the date. We are recording at the famed Rudy Van Gelder studio in New Jersey. Buster has always been on eof my favorite bass players. I and my best friend David Ephross, a bassist, used to sit around and listen to Buster's album called Something More. It features Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Foster, and Shunzo Ono, who is a good friend of mine. Actually, Shunzo will be here in a few hours, we are going to discuss music for his new CD.
Lenny White is one of my early inspirations. His playing on the Return To Forever recordings, not to mention Red Clay and the Griffith Park stuff, is some of my favorite drumming. I am an amateur drummer myself, and I also compose with a certain drum attitude in mind, and I have been influnced greatly by Lenny's interpretations.
Ok, I played at the White House last summer with Vanessa Rubin. We played a state dinner for the President of Poland. (I guess Poland was part of the " Coaltition of the Willing" that endorsed the invasion of Iraq......)Why did I do it, you may wonder? Hey , a gig is a gig. Yes, I voted for Gore, like many of you out there. I didn't think that the Supreme Court decision to put him in office was fair. I don't like anything that the present administration has done. But a gig is a gig, I needed a gig, so hey....Plus I've worked with Vanessa Rubin alot over the years and she asked me to do it and it seemed like it would be important to her for me to be there, so .....At the time,, I went in with a much more open mind. I mean, I never played at the White House when I lived in D.C.! So I wanted to see what it was like. We played a 20 minute show in the East Wing. All the big wigs were there, right up close....Chaney, Rumsfeld, Condalezza, Powell, Clarence Thomas(he is clearly not a jazz fan, he was figeting and seemed bored by the whole thing.)Bush himself got up and thanked us by name, which might explain the call, xricci! Bush did it by memory , too. I will say this, and I guess this isn't the best forum to get political and start Bush Bashing and get this whole website shut down!, but this sums it up for me. Vanessa got to EAT AT THE STATE DINNER, AND THE BAND(ME,LONNIE PLAXICO,AND ALVIN ATKINSON) DID NOT. We were offered a dessert before the concert. Is this not a clear metaphor for the attitude of our present government. Some are welcome at the table, others can go to Burger King across form the Hay Adams hotel(which I did, and liked it, thank you very much.)
I think our attitudes closer to the aftermath of 9/11 were much different from even a year later. So, I think if someone asked me to play at the White House now, even if it was Trane reincarnated, I would decline, because the more I read about what the government is doing, the more infuriated and sickened I am.
.......Unless it paid really good, and if they guaranteed a meal! Heh heh......
George, the first thing you ask is "do we git ta eat?" Put it in th' contract. I gig occasionally with a tightass's nine piece ballroom dancer's group that won't even let us partake in the hors d'oeuvres unless we're invited. Then, I did a while with a top 40s group that descended on the hors d'oeuvre like a cloud of locusts.
Depends on the size of the group and the formality of the gig, I reckon.
The only time I got fed a bonifide meal was with a period civil war band...a steak dinner, to boot.
I digress...it's your show.
You get the good gigs, I clean up.....grumble, grumble
Hey! I tried to post an image; what happened...the image turned off? bummer
A lot of good arguments are ruined by some fool who knows what he's talking about.
That is a classic story if I ever heard one! You guys worked your asses for the White House top brass while they wined and dined in extravagant luxury. Then they gave the caviar kitchen scraps to the "royal dogs" and sent you brothers off to Burger King!
Well, look at the bright side. I am sure that the company was much better at Burger King. And despite the risks of fast food these days, there is a much greater probability of getting SCUM in your food in the White House.
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