It's dangerous to take labels too seriously where music is involved. Take Wycliffe Gordon, for instance. A protégé of Wynton Marsalis and former charter member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the trombonist is most clearly associated with mainstream sensibilities. Truth be told, however, Gordon has evidenced varied interests by such projects as his studio effort The Gospel Truth
and time spent with the Herbie Nichols Project.
To date however, he has never sounded more adventurous than on United Soul Experience, a special project that brings together musicians from several different camps. Pianist David Kikoski has almost become a house pianist these days at Criss Cross; Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart have recently completed trio work with guitarist Pat Metheny; and Seamus Blake forms the front line of Project O with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.
Booted tastefully along by Stewart, the opening strains of "Get It! Get It!" announces without doubt that this crew came to play, with a string of spirited solos in the offing. Here we get to experience Gordon in bebop mode, displaying the kind of fluidity that J.J. Johnson's work always reflected. With a mute, Gordon is equally impassionedas heard on the stately "Karen's Contemplation." With a Nawlins Second Line flair, "On the Spot" and Blake's "In Flight" rollick along on a blissful note, the saxophonist contributing some first-rate solo work and melding perfectly with Gordon during the ensemble statements. Worth nothing on the latter is the dramatic way Gordon gets into his first statement by sliding down to the first note.
Both as a composer and trombonist, Gordon excels in this setting and proves his talents lie beyond category. This is a great album.
Personnel: Wycliffe Gordon: trombone; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; David Kikoski: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.