Although he placed in the Thelonious Monk saxophone competition a few years back, alto man Jon Gordon has yet to receive the dues he's owed as a rooted mainstream player. He's been active on the New York scene for close to a decade, recorded a number of times as a sideman for Criss Cross, led three of his own dates for the same, and is now making his debut on Double-Time. In a slightly unsettling way however, The Things We Need is not the earnest accomplishment that Gordon and company must of had in mind.
Three different groupings are presented here with varying degrees of success. Three cuts, including two charming Gordon originals, catch the altoist with the dream team of Peter Bernstein, Mike LeDonne, Dennis Irwin, and Kenny Washington. These performances are the most satisfying of the lot, closely followed by takes on "Monk's Dream" and "Ugly Beauty" with pianist Ronnie Mathews spelling LeDonne and a brief "SKJ" that substitutes Eddie Locke for Washington.
Things then take a wayward turn when a well-intentioned idea goes south. Two tracks find Gordon and rhythm section backing a choir of eight to eleven- year-olds that he heard about through Locke and piano great Barry Harris. The standard "Without a Song" is mawkish and down right silly, with Gordon's alto obligatos arriving off-mike and sounding for all the world like they were recorded in a warehouse next-door. Barry Harris' title track doesn't fare much better, and despite the hyperbole and sentiment expressed in Gordon's liners regarding the composition, its presentation is largely bland and undistinguished and the kids add nothing of significance. Another unfortunate slip, Gordon's poorly-recorded horn crops up again on "SKJ," marring an otherwise choice performance.
It's lamentable that Gordon decided to approach this project like a patchwork quilt. The moments that are of quality are uniquely sublime, but it's just as true to state that the awkward lapses distract from the whole. An entire album of Gordon originals done with the Bernstein et al. unit would have been a more sagacious way to go.
Track Listing: Minor Dues, Without a Song, These Are the Things We Need, Monk's Dream, Stapleton, Isn't it Romantic?, SKJ, Ugly Beauty (59:00)
Personnel: Jon Gordon- alto saxophone, Mike LeDonne- piano, Ronnie Mathews- piano (cuts 4 & 8 only), Peter Bernstein- guitar, Dennis Irwin- bass, Kenny Washington- drums, Eddie Locke- drums (cuts 2,3, and 7 only), Children's Choir (cuts 2 & 3 only)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.