Whereas 1999's Unresolved featured George Colligan on piano, electric keyboards, trumpet, and even drums, Desire, his second outing on the Fresh Sound label, is more of an acoustic, scaled-down affair. Colligan plays only piano, and his two trumpet spots are restricted to brief melody statements. But although the leader is wearing fewer hats, the music is by no means less ambitious. His top-notch quartet includes saxophonist Perico Sambeat, bassist Mario Rossy, and drummer Marc Miralta. This lineup does not change at all throughout the record -- again a departure from Unresolved.
Colligan led this group in a series of live gigs just before the album was recorded, so the studio performances are as polished as they are fiery. Sambeat's work on alto, soprano, and flute is consistently brilliant, Colligan's solos dance with inspiration and invention, and Rossy and Miralta propel the music with rhythmic finesse and compelling solo statements of their own.
Colligan's writing is informed by a cutting-edge jazz aesthetic that is at once searching and accessible. His Latin influences come to the fore on "Battle Cry" and "Colors of Love." The title track is a straight-ahead, joyous swinger, while "Last November" and "Darkness Rising" paint a more solemn picture. Colligan reaches the farthest with "Ancestral Wisdom" and "Open," two extended, odd-metered pieces, as well as "Epilogue," a densely harmonized, quasi-rubato sketch. His multi-metric, flamenco-tinged arrangement of Billy Strayhorn's "Upper Manhattan Medical Group" is also a creative high point. (In a glaring though obviously unintentional oversight, Strayhorn is not credited as the composer.)