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Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart: This Rhythm On My Mind

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File under: Louis Armstrong meets Jack Teagarden redux! That description is accurate with respect to the vibe of the recording, but not the instrumentation: the two musicians featured here play the trombone and acoustic bass, respectively. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, a much in-demand musician who has toiled in various Wynton Marsalis organizations over the past decade or so, joins forces with one of the most popular bassists in jazz, Jay Leonhart.

They have formed a musical cooperative, on this release assisted by tenor saxophonists Wayne Escoffrey and Harry Allen, as well as percussionist Jim Saporito. Gordon also plays tuba and is one of the few jazz players to be featured on the didjeridoo (on several tracks). Both Gordon and Leonhart are featured vocalists as well as instrumentalists, and the bassist has long been known as a composer (and singer) of his own waggish tunes, which have delighted audiences for some time. I can recall being treated to a half hour of his original vocals in the 1980s as an opening act. Gordon's voice is weatherbeaten and similar to Satchmo's in terms of its graininess and enthusiasm.

This collection of mostly originals gives both men a chance to sing together as well as in support of each other, beginning with the title tune, presented by Gordon with Leonhart scatting along with his bass playing. On certain numbers, there is almost a "Slim and Slam" ambiance as Leonhart emulates Slam Stewart while Gordon channels Slim Gaillard as a more gravelly vocalist. On "Mr. Leonhart Mr. Gordon," the duo expresses a shared musical philosophy in the manner of jazz vaudevillians.

There are a few tracks here that Armstrong and Teagarden never would have attempted, like Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," featuring a Leonhart lyric along with a Wayne Escoffrey solo; or the Lester Young classic "Lester Leaps In," which features a lyrical melody reading and a solo from Harry Allen on tenor sax. Two standards, "Mood Indigo" and "All Alone," are left alone as instrumentals, and a tribute to bassist Ray Brown is offered on "Missin RB Blues." Gordon and Leonhart's humor quotient is demonstrated on "I Want My Blooze Back" and "Toast My Bread."

Track Listing: Rhythm on My Mind; Problem; I Want My Blooz Back; Mr Leonhart Mr Gordon; Mood Indigo; Toast My Bread; Eddie Harris (Freedom Jazz Dance); Missin RB Blues; Lester Leaps In; All Alone; Little Honey; Lucky Day; Home for Supper.

Personnel: Wycliffe Gordon: trombone, tuba, vocals, didjeridu; Jay Leonhart: bass, vocals; Jim Saporito: percussion (11); Henry Allen: tenor sax (9); Wayne Escoffery: tenor sax (7).

Title: This Rhythm On My Mind | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Bluesback Records

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