George Colligan | The Phyllis Wheatley Project

Phyllis Wheatley was born into slavery in Senegal and brought to Boston in 1761. She was educated by her enslavers and quickly became a literary prodigy. In 1773, at the age of 20, she published her first book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Wheatley’s poetry was celebrated in both America and Europe, and she became a symbol of the abolitionist movement.
Colligan was first drawn to Wheatley’s poetry by her powerful voice and her unique perspective. He says, “Her poetry is considered ground-breaking and important. Her writing is surely in the style of the 18th century. It’s more biblical or Shakespearean than Maya Angelou. Her words are powerful and evocative. I’ve put some other poetry to music but never anything like this. I’m amazed at the results; in a way, the music wrote itself. There is so much rhythm and energy in her writing that it didn’t take long for the music to appear. These amazing young musicians really brought the project to the next level. This music is in the true collaborative spirit of jazz. ”
On The Phyllis Wheatley Project, Colligan is joined on the album by a talented ensemble of musicians (most of whom were once students of his), including vocalist Zyanna, trumpeter Noah Simpson, bassist Garrett Baxter, and drummer Dominick Branch. All of them bring this exciting project to life with passion and conviction.

George Colligan, piano; Zyanna Melada, vocals; Noah Simpson, trumpet; Garrett Baxter, bass; Dominick Branch, drums
All words by Phyllis Wheatley
All compositions by George Colligan / GHCIV MUSIC (SESAC)
Recorded by Randy Porter at Heavywood Studios
Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering
Executive Producer: Ryan Meagher
Thanks to Portland State University for a generous faculty development grant to support this project.