Bob Gordon was a major player on the West Coast scene of the fifties and was on a path to become one of the greatest baritone sax players jazz had ever produced. Unfortunately, he died in an automobile accident in 1955, just as the cool jazz scene was beginning to gather some steam.
Before his untimely death he was a widely sought after session player, easily able to adapt to any leader's idiosyncrasies. He had a particular affinity for the playing of trombonist Herbie Harper and saxophonist/arranger Jack Montrose, and the work that he did with both men is collected here on this two-CD set.
If you're a devotee of West Coast music, there's a good chance you may have some or all of this material already. The Harper sessions are also available on The Complete Nocturne Recordings. The first of the Montrose sessions was released by Koch Jazz as Jack Montrose with Bob Gordon, while the second session was released as part of the West Coast Classics series from Blue Note as The Jack Montrose Sextet.
This is classic West Coast material, highly polished work with an air of detachment. The Harper/Gordon collaboration, which features other stalwarts like pianist Jimmy Rowles and bassist Harry Babasin, is a fairly typical run-though of some reworked standards like "Jeepers Deepers, usual fare like "Summertime, and earnest attempts at something soulful like "More Blues. While the playing is good throughout, there's nothing here that sets it apart from other sessions that came from the area.
The Montrose sessions, on the other hand, offer some of the best and most unusual concepts of arranging courtesy of Jack Montrose. His knotted, complicated charts may have cost him fame but are a musician's delight and require the kind of tricky playing that Gordon excelled at. Trumpeter Conte Candoli joins the pair on the front line for some exciting ideas that represent some of the best of the West Coast. While some listeners may find Montrose's music overly fussy, there's no question that this session in particular produced some wonderful music that was at times bizarre, at times complicated, and at times swinging, oftentimes within the same song.
Bob Gordon isn't the driving force behind any of these sessions, yet his contributions certainly affect their outcome in significant ways. He could blow the paint of the walls if given the opportunity (and you'll hear it throughout) and his is a key link to the California music scene of the fifties.
CD1: Jeepers Deepers; Five Brothers; Herbstone; Summertime; Jive at Five; Babette; More Blues; Sonny Boy; Slow Mood; Slow; Just George; A Little Duet; April's Fool; Dot's Groovy; I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town; Cecilia; The News and the Weather; When You Wish Upon A Star; Have You Met Miss Jones? CD2: Paradox; Meet Mr. Gordon; Tea For Two; Modus Operandi; Onion Bottom; What A Difference A Day Makes; For Sue; Love Is Here To Stay; Two Can Play; Listen, Hear; Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; Credo; Pretty; Some Good Fun Blues; Fools Rush In; Speakeasy; That Old Feeling; Two Can Play A.T.
Herbie Harper: trombone (CD1#1-11); Bob Gordon: baritone sax; Jimmy Rowles: piano (CD1#1-5); Harry Babasin: bass (CD1#1-5); Roy Harte: drums (CD1#1-5); Maurey Dell: piano (CD1#6-11); Don Prell: bass (CD1#6-11); George Redman: drums (CD1#6-11); Jack Montrose: tenor sax (CD1#12-19, CD2#1-18); Paul Moer: piano (CD1#12-19, CD2#1-18); Red Mitchell: bass (CD1#12-19, CD2#1); Shelley Manne: drums (CD1#12-19, CD2#1, CD2#10-17); Joe Mondragon: bass (CD2#2-9, CD2#18); Bill Schneider: drums (CD2#2-9, CD2#18); Conte Candoli: trumpet (CD2#10-17); Ralph Pena: bass (CD2#10-17);