Recorded at Goldblatt Studio, Portland, Oregon, November 27, 2017
Engineered by David Goldblatt
Mixed by David Goldblatt
Mastered by Dana White
Produced by George Colligan
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Original Artwork/Album Design by Sophie Moates
released July 27, 2018
ABOUT THE ALBUM
In his first solo piano release for Whirlwind – Nation Divided – George Colligan takes a lead from Duke Ellington’s quoted notion that “…this is not piano. This is dreaming”. The Portland-based pianist and multi-instrumentalist is known for numerous sideman appearances on the bandstand with names such as Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, Don Byron, Cassandra Wilson, and can be found on over a hundred album recordings (including 2017’s ‘More Powerful’ – WR4708). But, as he elucidates, this is different: “After a lot of trio and ensemble records, I wanted to get back to the piano to clear the air and represent my thoughts again in solitude. The whole session was captured in a single day by respected pianist David Goldblatt in his basement studio”.
Finding a correlation between the written and the spontaneous, some of Colligan’s pieces are fully improvised, others through-composed, or they combine elements of both. “I love Ellington’s idea that it doesn’t matter what it is – it’s just dreaming”, he explains. I like to let things happen, but on ‘the road less traveled’ rather than the familiar; and in musical conversations with myself, I can take as many risks as I wish.
A recurrent restlessness in Colligan’s thirteen originals is validated by provocatively-named title track ‘Nation Divided’, its two different keys and motifs agitatedly attempting to link up but never quite making it. “I often examine my own thoughts and would love to see things from someone else’s viewpoint. But while socio-political divisions throughout the United States (and globally) are nothing new, it seems that politicians, the media and talk radio, for example, are motivating current extremes of polarization”.
The haunting left-hand ostinato and single-line melodies of ‘Wounds Of Another Time’ illustrate the split-second memory of emotional scars we can carry around internally, yet which provide us with wisdom. Smouldering ‘Closure’, midnight waltz-in-five ‘Nights of Passion’ and romantic ‘Sentimental Foolishness’ (hinting at Abdullah Ibrahim) all recall one-time personal relationships. Debussyian chimes and modal folksong in ‘Blues for Charleston’ reflect on the horror of tragedy (“not written in anger, but with heavy sadness” at an endless cycle of hatred) alongside the lush resolve of ‘The Strength To Move On’ (written as part of a suite, with lyrics, after 9/11) and warm, equilibratory ‘If That’s All There Is To Say’. 1940s movie inspiration is behind delicately dancing ‘Between Two Worlds’ and mockumentary Spinal Tap supplies the ‘Saddest Of All Keys’ title for Colligan’s C#/D minor tension, exploring his compositional ‘Prokofiev wrong note’ motivation. Frenetic ‘Street Fight’ impressively and atonally jabs high and low; abstract ‘Prelude’ mirrors classical influences, as does impressionistic watercolour ‘Cognac Logic’.
In Nation Divided, George Colligan invites listeners to construct their own visions around his personal imaginings: “As artists, we prefer to live in a dream world. That’s not negative – it’s a chance to create your own universe, because the real universe can suck! As we mature, we have to accept, but also need to escape. For me, it’s that dreaming aspect which provides the satisfaction.”