Although he placed in the Thelonious Monk saxophone competition a few years back, alto man Jon Gordon has yet to receive the dues he's owed as a rooted mainstream player. He's been active on the New York scene for close to a decade, recorded a number of times as a sideman for Criss Cross, led three of his own dates for the same, and is now making his debut on Double-Time. In a slightly unsettling way however, The Things We Need is not the earnest accomplishment that Gordon and company must of had in mind.
Three different groupings are presented here with varying degrees of success. Three cuts, including two charming Gordon originals, catch the altoist with the dream team of Peter Bernstein, Mike LeDonne, Dennis Irwin, and Kenny Washington. These performances are the most satisfying of the lot, closely followed by takes on "Monk's Dream" and "Ugly Beauty" with pianist Ronnie Mathews spelling LeDonne and a brief "SKJ" that substitutes Eddie Locke for Washington.
Things then take a wayward turn when a well-intentioned idea goes south. Two tracks find Gordon and rhythm section backing a choir of eight to eleven- year-olds that he heard about through Locke and piano great Barry Harris. The standard "Without a Song" is mawkish and down right silly, with Gordon's alto obligatos arriving off-mike and sounding for all the world like they were recorded in a warehouse next-door. Barry Harris' title track doesn't fare much better, and despite the hyperbole and sentiment expressed in Gordon's liners regarding the composition, its presentation is largely bland and undistinguished and the kids add nothing of significance. Another unfortunate slip, Gordon's poorly-recorded horn crops up again on "SKJ," marring an otherwise choice performance.
It's lamentable that Gordon decided to approach this project like a patchwork quilt. The moments that are of quality are uniquely sublime, but it's just as true to state that the awkward lapses distract from the whole. An entire album of Gordon originals done with the Bernstein et al. unit would have been a more sagacious way to go.
Track Listing: Minor Dues, Without a Song, These Are the Things We Need, Monk's Dream, Stapleton, Isn't it Romantic?, SKJ, Ugly Beauty (59:00)
Personnel: Jon Gordon- alto saxophone, Mike LeDonne- piano, Ronnie Mathews- piano (cuts 4 & 8 only), Peter Bernstein- guitar, Dennis Irwin- bass, Kenny Washington- drums, Eddie Locke- drums (cuts 2,3, and 7 only), Children's Choir (cuts 2 & 3 only)