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Wycliffe Gordon: The Search / Uptown Lowdown

C. Michael Bailey By

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Wycliffe Gordon accepts the trombone mantle from Al Grey and turns in his best performances to date.

Just when I was prepared to anoint Uri Caine's Goldberg Variations the best disc to cross my path this year, Nagel-Heyer sends me their much-anticipated release by Wynton Marsalis-Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and additional discs containing performances by that same hornman. A remarkable thing about Marsalis is that he can teach and limit at the same time. While I love his and his band's performances, it seems that he attenuates the overall power and grace of his musicians. I base this observation and opinion on recordings made by his sidemen without his tutelage. My case in point is Wycliffe Gordon's new release, The Search. This is basically a big band outing with out Wynton, not unlike Johnny Hodges without The Duke.

What does Gordon do? He swings his ass off, that's what he does. slidin' Home was a great disc and one of my picks for the best disc of last year, but The Search proves that Gordon is well on his way to becoming an artist every bit as important as Marsalis, and, perhaps, more authentic. Gordon's "Cheeky" is Basiesque as opposed to Dukish, as are his other originals. There are plenty of other surprises. Gordon's Criss Cross release of gospel tunes The gospel Truth bleeds over in "Georgia On My Mind" and a trombone chorus of "Danny Boy" recast as "He Looked Beyond My Fault". Marcus Printup shows up with his trumpet, as well as Herlin Riley with his drums and Rodney Whitaker with his bass. The outcome is professional, yet loose and swinging.

Gordon joins labelmate Mark Sandke for a tribute to New York City on Uptown Lowdown, focussing on the compositions of Duke Ellington's tribute to the Big Apple, and in particular, Harlem. Sandke is in crisp and fine form, as are Ken Peplowski on clarinet and Joe Temperley on Baritone saxophone. The all-star band winds its way through "Echoes of Harlem" and "Drop Me off in Harlem", "Sugarhill Penthouse", and "Harlem Speaks". The band adroitly tackles the future after Duke in Bird's "Scrapple from the Apple", Monk's "52nd Street Theme", and Coltrane's "Grand Central". Both discs superb and in time for Christmas. Go for it! Wycliffe Gordon employees his Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra members, most notable, Victor Goines, whose informed tenor saxophone graces almost all cuts.

Track Listing (The Search):Cheeky; What Is This Thing Called Love?; He Looked Beyond My Fault; Frantic Flight; The Search; Touch It Lightly; Georgia On My Mind; Sweet Georgia Brown; Blues For Dec'n Cone; Sign Me Up; Stardust; Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues; Rhythm-A-Ing. (Total Time: 65:18)

Track Listing (Uptown Lowdown):. Echoes Of Harlem/Drop Me Off In Harlem; Jungle Nights In Harlem; Boys From Harlem; Sugarhill Penthouse; ; Blue Belles Of Harlem; Harlem Speaks; Chinatown; Rose Of Washington Square/Broadway; Slumming On Park Avenue; 42nd Street; Scrapple From The Apple; Nostalgia In Times Square; Grand Central; 52nd Street Theme; Take The "A" Train. (Total Time: 77:33)

Personnel (The Search):Wycliffe Gordon: Trombone, Tuba, Didge; Ron Westray, Delfyo Marsalis, Jen Krupa, Dave Gibson: Trombones; Roger Floreska: Bass Trombone; Marcus Printup: Trumpet; Victor Goines, Walter Blaning, Jr.: Tenor Saxophone; Ted Nash: Alto Saxophone; Flute; Eric Reed: Piano; Rodney Whitaker: Bass; Winard Harper, Herlin Riley: Drums.

Personnel (Uptown Lowdown):Randy Sandke: Trumpet; Warren Vache: Trumpet; Wycliffe Gordon: Trombone; Allan Vache: Clarinet; Ken Peplowski: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Scott Robinson: Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute; Joe Temperley: Baritone Saxophone; Howard Alden: Guitar; Eric Reed, Mark Shane: Piano; Rodney Whitaker: Bass; Joe Ascione: Drums.


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