Straight out of the Wynton Marsalis school of jazz, trombone man Wycliffe Gordon cut his teeth with the ubiquitous trumpeter, yet unlike many from the Marsalis clan, Gordon has shown over the past few years that his musical personality takes in far more far reaching influences than the retro styled swing that Marsalis chooses as his muse. Influenced by a wide lineage of jazz trombonists from Dickey Wells to J.J. Johnson, Gordon has the chops to spare, but communicates with a strong emotional base. His series of Criss Cross Jazz releases of recent vintage have presented him in varied contexts that make the most out of his forward thinking proclivities.
United Soul Experience
Of his recent work, Gordon's two current Criss Cross releases contain some of his most ambitious statements to date. United Soul Experience boasts a killer ensemble with saxman Seamus Blake and a masterful rhythm section of David Kikoski, Larry Grenadier, and Bill Stewart. It's not the sort of band that one would usually associate with Gordon and these six gentleman had never even played together before this session, but on the recommendation of producer Gerry Teekens, Gordon decided to give it a go and the results are uniformly superb. Blake and Gordon make for a tuneful and attractive front line, while Kikoski boots things along with typical joie de vivre.
With the exception of Ellington's "Low Key Lightly," all the tunes are penned by either Blake or Gordon and each one speaks with its own distinctive voice. Worth special attention are Gordon's muted solo on "Karen's Contemplation" and his slippery histrionics on "In Flight." Stewart is perfect for this sort of writing, as he tends to add further layers of complexity to an already multifarious landscape. With lots of heart and soul, United Soul Experience never takes itself too seriously while avoiding the pitfalls of being yet another retro hard bop record.
Ever bit as good if not better, Dig This! kicks in with an even stronger soul-jazz formula that gets its energy from Criss Cross regulars organist Sam Yahel and guitarist Peter Bernstein. Back on hand too are Seamus Blake and Bill Stewart combining efforts to make this one of the best organ combo records of recent vintage. Yahel is at the heart of things here as he continues to prove himself as a tasty player more concerned with the orchestral and textural possibilities of the organ than in overpowering things with flashy displays.
The title track opens things with an air of confidence and a carefree strut. Blake's "Mahajual" delivers a boogaloo beat not unlike Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder." And there are plenty of chances for Gordon to display his chops. With mute in hand, he gets down and dirty on two takes of "Old Man Blooz" recalling the vocal style of Al Grey and goes for a lesson in technical virtuosity on an unaccompanied "Blues Etude #2." It all makes for a highly enjoyable ride that should please Gordon's fans and anyone else with a taste for organ combos.
United Soul Experience
Personnel: Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Seamus Blake (tenor sax), David Kikoski (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)
Track Listing: Get It! Get It!, Karen's Contemplation, In Flight, Everyday, Corey's Competition, Periwinkle, On the Spot, Low Key Lightly
Personnel: Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Sam Yahel (organ), Bill Stewart (drums)
Track Listing: Dig This!, Mahajual, Old Man Blooz (take 2), Limehouse Blues, The Beautiful Souls, Jookin' the Blooz, Lonnie's Lament, I Can't Get Started, Cone's Tune, Blues Etude #2, Old Man Blooz (take 1)