In 2006, drummer Matt Gordy
heeded the mandate to "go west, young man," moving from Boston to Los Angeles, while he was still "young at heart," and quickly becoming a mainstay of the local scene, after years of success as a jazz and classical drummer in New England, and even with the Maracaibo, Venezuela, Symphony Orchestra, where he spent nine years as chief percussionist. After fifteen years gigging in Los Angeles, Gordy decided it was time to record his first album as leader, and so we have Be With Me
, on which Gordy is accompanied by five friends and colleagues, with vocalist Sherry Williams
making it the Jazz Tonite Septet on two numbers.
Gordy's front line consists of trumpeter Ron Stout
(another omnipresent anchor of the Los Angeles scene), saxophonist Jeff Ellwood
and trombonist Ido Meshulam
. Rounding out the rhythm section are the seasoned pianist Alan Pasqua
and reliable bassist Chris Colangelo
. Gordy wrote or co-wrote four of the album's nine selections and arranged all of them. While the music is not thematic, there are a number of dedications to Gordy's musical paragons: Mulgrew Miller
("You and the Night and the Music"); Chick Corea
("Spring Ahead"); Joni Mitchell
("Be With Me"); McCoy Tyner
("Soul Eyes"); the late Boston-area pianist and educator Charlie Banacos ("My Shining Hour") and last but not least, Gordy's granddaughter ("Chloe").
The sextet dives into the early Count Basie
book for its opener, a fast-paced version of Eddie Durham's "Topsy" featuring buoyant solos by Stout, Ellwood (on tenor saxophone), Meshulam (valve trombone) and Pasqua, and marvelous brushwork by Gordy. Colangelo's woody bass introduces "You and the Night and the Music," another flat-out swinger whose clever arrangement is a launching pad for nimble solos by the front line (Ellwood on soprano saxophone), splendid comping by Pasqua and inspired timekeeping by Gordy. "Camouflage," the first of Gordy's originals, combines a light Les Baxter-ish ambience with snug group interaction and splendid comping and soloing by Pasqua. "Spring Ahead" does exactly that, galloping homeward on the wings of glossy solos by Ellwood (tenor saxophone), Stout and Pasqua, with Gordy appending a forceful exclamation point.
"Chloe" slows the pace for some heavy blowing by Ellwood, Stout and Pasqua before Williams lends her sultry voice to the charming ballad, "Be With Me." Colangelo's bass underpins an admirable solo turn by Meshulam on the groovy "Soul Eyes," which precedes the tasteful Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer standard, "My Shining Hour," and pianist Oscar Peterson
's gently waving "Wheatland." Williams returns in a more funky groove for the rhythmic finale, Bobby Hebbs' '60s pop classic, "Sunny," enfolding a stellar soprano saxophone solo by Ellwood, more of Pasqua's exemplary keyboard work and firm support from Gordy and Colangelo. Be With Me
is a laudable sextet date on which everyone shines in turn, bolstered by handsome arrangements and an impressive choice of material.
Topsy; You and the Night and the Music; Camouflage; Spring Ahead; Chloe; Be with Me;
Soul Eyes; My Shining Hour; Wheatland; Sunny.
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