A set of exciting and perhaps unexpectedly melodic performances. O'Gallagher's respect and affection for Webern's music comes across loud and clear. Well-conceived and worthy of many listens.
Favorite track: Schnell (After Op. 27).
John O' Gallagher - alto saxophone
Matt Moran - vibraphone
Pete McCann - guitar
Russ Lossing - hammond organ, rhodes, piano
Johannes Weidenmuller - double bass
Tyshawn Sorey - drums
Margret Grebowicz - voice
Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NYC on Sept 17, 2012 by Michael Marciano
All arrangements by John O' Gallagher
Produced by John O' Gallagher
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
released June 18, 2013
ABOUT THE ALBUM
The Anton Webern Project is the debut Whirlwind release from John O' Gallagher, the Grammy-award winning alto saxophonist who is known as one of the most compelling improvisers, composers and music conceptualists at work today on the avant-jazz scene. The California native has released many critically-acclaimed albums but it's his new, ambitious project that shows his diverse talents pushed to exciting limits.
This recording features reworkings and adaptations of the music of Anton Webern (the Austrian composer known for his innovations in twelve-tone technique and the musical movement known as 'Serialism') for O' Gallagher's star-studded, seven-piece ensemble. Within one hearing of the album the listener is transported into a unique sound-world thanks to the leader's masterful amalgamation of the theories pioneered by the Second Viennese School with his vision of contemporary jazz. The Anton Webern Project is a testament to seemingly limitless spirit of the ever-searching and evolving improvising musician, and is a vital addition to the advancement and appreciation of Webern and twelve-tone music.
In John's own words (this excerpt taken from the liner notes of the album):
"I remember the first time I heard the music of Anton Webern. It was in a music history class at Berklee in the late 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 twentieth century classical music. Often cited as the father of serialism (which took hold in the 1950s), it seems that there are still many preconceptions that even educated listeners have about Webern’s music. With this project one of my goals was to present his music as clearly melodic and beautiful in ways that most listeners may not be aware of. Each of the 8 Webern pieces I selected to arrange for this recording spoke to my imagination as having an unusual kinship and translatable essence to modern jazz and this ensemble in particular. I chose to stay as close as possible to the source material’s themes and counterpoint with only minor changes in places that required it. Additional material was composed to provide solo sections for improvising, as well as introductions and codas where needed. All the solo sections are either based on harmonies/trichord structures extracted from the twelve-tone rows each piece uses, the rhythmic structures of the compositions, or the harmonies that result from the counterpoint. Each piece demanded its own solutions to create a sense of a unified whole. One question that would help guide me as I conceived this project was “what would Webern’s music sound like if he were a jazz musician living in New York City today?” This recording is one possible answer to that question."
"Courageous stuff and easily the most innovative album of the year."
"It's not an opportunistic cross-genre grab, but an expert jazz adventure conducted with uninhibited respect."
★★★★ The Guardian
"O'Gallagher has realized his mission statement in brilliant fashion."
★★★★ The JazzMann
"O' Gallagher has long been associated with 12-tone music and takes the bull by the horns by adapting eight Webern pieces for his sextet plus voice. O' Gallagher is both mathematical and creative with his approach, staying close to Webern's melodic intention while trying to pull out the music's internal essence...The Anton Webern Project contains a wealth of riches that pays off with multiple listens."
All About Jazz
"Even if one knew nothing about the origin of the material, it would be a great listen: the band is immensely tight and texturally engrossing."
NYC Jazz Record
"A synthesis of modern New York improvisation and serial technique; a muti-layered, artful music that always swings despite all the complexity and grooves.”
★★★★★ Nordwestschweiz (Switzerland)
"John O’Gallagher is a saxophonist of intimidating fluency."
Search & Restore
"This music is addictive and beautiful, played with dedication and passion: challenging and intriguing."
London Jazz News
"The alto saxophonist shares the serialist composer’s penchant for wide-intervalled lines leaping over dense harmonies. Avdowntown sextet adapts Webern’s thematic material into angular, rhythmically astute and multi-textured jazz fusion."
★★★★ The Financial Times
"An absorbing listen, O’Gallagher says he has looked for the melody and beauty in Webern’s compositions, and certainly presenting it in a jazz context and with these musicians, the emotional side of the music is brought out."
The Jazz Breakfast
"The moods can get a bit eerie when the B3 comes to play in 'Five Pieces' and 'Seventh Ring' which has vocalist Margret Grebowicz delivering a Lieder worth of lyrics."
"The Anton Webern Project will appeal to fans of the Claudia Quintet (yes, Matt Moran is in that group as well) but also to listeners who enjoy creative challenges, music that hits hard with excellent arrangements and feisty musicianship."
"It's a thrilling ride...the chattering, very involving O’ Gallagher lead makes the music sufficiently distinctive, and on ‘The Secret Code’ he improvises superbly in one of his best solos of a fascinating and involving album."
★★★★ O's Place Jazz Magazine
"A bright and confident statement... Using the classical works of the composer Anton Webern as a jumping off point, alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher re-imagines the composer's work for a jazz ensemble."
Jazz and Blues
"You can bet your week’s allotment of coffee and strudel that [Anton Webern] would have gotten a bit of a kick out of it."
The Buffalo News
"I can personally testify that you don’t need an intimate familiarity with the Webern compositions on which these eight pieces are based, or even with dodecaphony in general, in order to enjoy a very stimulating experience. The music is intense and highly detailed, but it never sounds overwritten or corseted. The essential spontaneity of jazz pervades this music — which, given the degree of preparation involved, is quite an achievement."
The Blue Moment