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Wycliffe Gordon Quintet: United Soul Experience

David A. Orthmann By

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The brainchild of producer Gerry Teekens, United Soul Experience extricates trombonist Wycliffe Gordon from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra orbit and teams him with some of the most interesting young talent in the Criss Cross stable. Tradition-minded but not predictable, the music alludes to several jazz and funk styles without settling into any one of them. Gordon, tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, and pianist David Kikoski play like accomplished young veterans who continue to search for something more. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart generate a circuitous kind of swing, stating a pulse and deconstructing it in the same instance. The leader’s five compositions evince memorable melodies and impose just the right amount of organization to the band’s loose-jointed execution.

Stewart’s ability to go in two directions at once without losing focus distinguishes “Get It! Get It!” from conventional hard bop. The rhythm section drops out for a portion of Gordon’s gutsy, authoritative solo, and he carries on in a manner that suggests they’re still with him. An active, funky line with a bustling undertow, Blake’s “In Flight” includes a turn by the composer that expands until he climaxes with upper-register cries reminiscent of a whistling teakettle. “Everyday,” Gordon’s plaintive ballad features the trombonist and Blake playing portions of the melody separately and in unison. During a beautifully realized performance, the piece accommodates four soloists with different points of view, yet doesn’t feel strained or overdone.

Leaning on Grenadier’s purposeful bass line, Stewart constructs a decidedly non-linear solo on “Corey’s Competition.” Maintaining absolute control over all four limbs while working the set from top to bottom, he jams disparate ideas into 20 bars or so. Nonetheless Stewart manages to shape everything into a coherent whole. Arranged for just the bass and muted trombone, Ellington’s “Low Key Lightly” makes a nice, easygoing ending to an excellent recording. The duo ambles along minus any hint of virtuosic intent. Grenadier buttresses Gordon’s vocal-like playing and contributes an elegant, unaccompanied solo.

Track Listing: 1. Get It! Get It!; 2. Karen's Contemplation; 3. In Flight; 4. Everyday; 5. Corey's Competition; 6. Periwinkle; 7. On The Spot; 8. Low Key Lightly

Personnel: Wycliffe Gordon--trombone; Seamus Blake--tenor sax; David Kikoski--piano; Larry Grenadier--bass; Bill Stewart--drums

Title: United Soul Experience | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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