The Oliver Gannon Quartet – Easy Sailing – Cellar Live CL 120913, 53:22 ****:
(Oliver Gannon – guitar; Miles Black – piano; Jodi Proznick – acoustic bass; Blaine Wikjord – drums)
In the novel Atlas Shrugged the writer Ayn Rand poses the following question about a mysterious character in the novel: “Who is John Galt?” A similar question may be asked about the principal musician in this session: “Who is Oliver Gannon?” The answer is somewhat more accessible. For those non-Canadian readers, Gannon is a guitarist who has spent most of his musical career in Vancouver BC, and was notably associated with the late Fraser MacPherson a well-respected tenor saxophonist. Easy Sailing is just the third album in his own name over his very long career, and that really is too bad, as he is a virtuoso with an impeccable style and is an incisive improvisor.
The group of musicians that is working with Gannon on this session are his usual cohorts and the degree of musical symmetry is sharply focused. Leading-off with the Cole Porter standard “Love For Sale” the group shows it’s swinging bonafides with Gannon setting the pace with long single lines that are crisply perceptive. Pianist Miles Black has a deft touch in his solo space and is also an unselfish accompanist. Most of the tunes on the playlist are covers from the standard American Songbook with the exception of two Gannon originals. The first is the title track, “Easy Sailing,” which has a bossa nova tempo that hustles along at a sprightly pace. Gannon and Black share the solo time that is both astute and differential. Gannon also contributes the closing track, “Warm,” a mid-tempo swinger in which he demonstrates a concise attack along with Black’s lyrical input. Bassist Jodi Proznick takes several solo bars that confirm she is a confident player.
As for the balance of the tracks, there is not a dud among them. Duke Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss” is given a sensitive reading with a lovely long introduction of the melody by Miles Black, and then after several short interludes by Gannon, the pianist picks up the pace of his exploration of the tune to offer a charming and lyrical reveal of the composition. Ray Noble’s “A Touch Of Your Lips” is afforded an assertive rendition with both Black and Gannon giving both liveliness and texture to the tune. With plenty of room for solo excursions and intelligent interpretations of the material, this quartet shows they are an enterprising and skillful band.
TrackList: Love For Sale; Easy Sailing; My One And Only Love; Chi Chi; Prelude To A Kiss; Come Rain Or Come Shine; The Touch Of Your Lips; How Deep Is The Ocean; Warm