abstract, different. Those are some of the terms that describe the music
of Austrian composer Anton Webern – played as if he were a jazz
musician. That’s the thinking by The Anton Webern Project
(Whirlwind Recordings, 2013) by John O’Gallagher.
The lineup is O’Gallagher, alto saxophone; Matt Moran, vibraphone; Pete
McCann, guitar; Russ Lossing, Hammond organ, Rhodes and piano; Johannes
Weidenmuller, bass; Tyshawn Sorey, drums; and Margret Grebowicz, voice.
“Schnell (after Op. 27)” shows O’Gallagher’s skill as a straightforward,
no-holds-barred saxophonist. He charges in and doesn’t let up until it’s
time to give way to Lossing’s organ. Guitar, bass and drums are quite
busy behind whoever’s in lead. For his part, it’s a wonder Lossing
doesn’t start a fire with all the friction he creates on the keys. Moran
doesn’t have much to do until near the end of the song, when he and
O’Gallagher share the spotlight briefly, before the vibes take point on
“Quartet (after Op. 22)” is a free-form piece that has no discernible
melody. Just the alto roaming wherever it wishes, with the others
maintaining a cohesive pace. During one brief phrase, sax and vibes
unite, then the sax drops out while Moran goes exploring, accompanied
only by bass and drums. The closing sequence employs a series of
stop-time phrases. The band is tight throughout.
O’Gallagher, born in Anaheim, California, and raised in Spokane,
Washington, has worked with an array of talent, including Joe Henderson,
Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman and Chris Potter. O’Gallagher says he first
heard Webern’s music in a music history class at Berklee College of
Music in the 1980s. “His music seemed other-worldly and shrouded in a
mysterious process that no explanation by the teacher could unravel.
This seed, planted early on in my musical development, grew into a love
and fascination for 20th-century classical music.”
The payoff is evident.