University of Missouri professor of music Rich Pellegrin made his OA2 Records debut this past February, with the album ‘Three Part Odyssey’.

Finding himself “some of the most exciting and forward looking musicians of Seattle’s younger generation” to fill out this quintet, the group echoes the sounds the John Coltrane‘s great quartet.

Pellegrin and his gang waltz the fine line between avant-garde, modal, and hard bop; occasionally venturing into elongated improvisation found in the Indian styles Coltrane drew much inspiration. At times Pellegrin, who studied Coltrane’s music on his way to a PhD in music, mirrors the powerful and aggressive repetitiveness with his left hand like McCoy Tyner on tunes like “Obtusity” and “Maze“.

Saxophonist Neil Welch‘s virtuosity shines on this album, showing his chops on the track “Breathe” and pushing his sax to limits Coltrane often pursued in his later days – with shrieks, howls, polyphonics, screeches, yelps and the like. “Breathe” also demonstrates Pellegrin’s ability to write a complex melody that grows with intensity through out.

My favorite aspect of the album is the accessibility of the avant-garde along with its diversity. University of Iowa professor and accomplished guitarist, Steve Grismore once told me that people can handle avant-garde better if it has some kind of “groove;” a steady bass ostinato or simply the rhythm section keeping some sense of time. ‘Three Part Odyssey’ does this very well.

Where one player ventures off into a solo, the band effectively provides continuity and flow around it, aiding the album’s accessibility. “Pastiche” understandably provides the exception that proves the rule as bassist Evan Flory-Barnes echoes virtuosity, playing seamless glissandi like Mark Dresser and using the bow to create deep legato notes on this freeform track.

This OA2 debut doesn’t just mimic Coltrane’s sound, but sees a talented group mix their own abilities with the influences of one of the greatest saxophonists to ever live, into a unique and diverse sound. Dissonant ballad “Distant, Distorted, You” and the uptempo song based around a heavily syncopated piano riff on “Piano Phrase” provide much needed breaks from some of the more intense songs on the album.

‘Three Part Odyssey’ is a very strong album with complex melodies, great communication between artists and virtuoso improvisations. Featuring free, modal, and even bop-like vibes throughout, the album has a bit of everything for the true Jazz aficionado, giving listeners a diverse set of sounds to keep them intrigued throughout. ‘Three Part Odyssey’ is a very worthy of a dedicated listen and won’t disappoint. This is a Solid 4-stars.

The Jazz Line Rating - 4 Stars

Key Personnel: Rich Pellegrin – Piano, Neil Welch – Sax, R. Scott Morning – Trumpet, Evan Flory-Barnes – Bass, Chris Icasiano – Drums.