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Terry Gordon Quintet: Contemplations

J. Robert Bragonier By

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Terry Gordon Quintet: Contemplations
The Terry Gordon Quintet has made music as a group for more than a decade, and it shows: their ensemble is tight and intuitive, their soloing bright and confident, and their improvisation brash and innovative. Contemplations (2002) is their second CD; their first, Wakeup Call, was released in 1996.

Many of these nine originals (seven by Gordon and two by Walentowicz) are designed to stretch the envelope: the more conventional are bop-oriented mainstream interspersed with Latin jazz and funk; the more adventuresome are unabashedly and unapologetically rock-strewn and avant-garde. “Contemplations” is an aptly titled minor key Latin exploration, pensive and melancholic, while “Fish Out of Water” is a quirky, infectious blues, with strong trumpet and Scofield-like guitar solos. The composer Walentowicz achieves an oboe-like sound from his soprano; at times, the group has almost a chamber quality. “Persistence” is funk with a vengeance; Tibbits’ guitar solo is rock candy, Gordon’s trumpet is crisp but full-bodied, and Rafalak’s bass solo crackles with energy and electricity.

The noteworthy flute playing of Walentowicz, plus solos all around, constitute “Watching the Storm Go By”; the changes are Latin spun sugar, sweet and simple but without a lot of nutritive value. “Structural One-ness,” on the other hand, is tart and fusiony, more than 13 minutes on a miniscule theme, nagging, sort of like a musical toothache. Walentowicz’s “Anxious Moments,” titularly more frenetic, is actually more ordered, an interesting hard-bop song form built on what sound like fragments of whole-tone scale.

Another ballad, “1-4-3,” features Gordon on fluegelhorn, as did “Contemplations,” and provides an emotionally rich change of pace. But not for long. “Quest for Sanity,” an apparently unsuccessful search*, is nearly 11 ½ minutes of ordered chaos, unstructured and avant-garde, although the piece maintains a driving, rhythmic center throughout much of it. The eclectic and uneven ride ends, unruffled by a uniquely inspired drum solo, on a decidedly more contemplative note with the dreamy, slow ballad, “Flowers That Beckon.”

* Postscript: I gave Contemplations one more spin to detect any hint of sanity appearing near the end, but alas! There was none to be had...

Track Listing

Contemplations; Fish Out of Water; Persistence; Watching the Storm Go By; Structural One-ness; Anxious Moments; 1-4-3; Quest for Sanity; Flowers That Beckon

Personnel

Terry Gordon (trumpet, fluegelhorn), Eric Walentowicz (tenor and soprano sax, flute), Gordon Tibbits or George Muscatello (guitars), Jason Rafalak (bass), and Matthew Maguire (drums)

Album information

Title: Contemplations | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Flying Gurnard Records

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