Ira Gitler review of Jazz Standard gig-9/98
Jazz Track News-Ira Gitler-10/4/98
When I wrote the notes for Jon Gordon’s 1994 Chiaroscuro album, “Spark”, I called him “solidly grounded but adventurous in extending harmonies and forms” and quoted him on the subject. “I try to write in a fresh modern way, but not lose a sense of melody”.
If anything, the new originals he revealed on sep. 30th, the night I heard his quartet at the Jazz Standard, were more abstract than his compositions of four years ago, but still “solidly grounded”. His approach to the music of others reflects this attitude: creative license with respect for essence.
The invaluable Bill Charlap is still the pianist in Gordon’s quartet, but there were two additions: young Joe Martin, who took care of the bass department with a warm sound and a minimum of fuss; and the highly regarded Bill Stewart at the drums. Gordon didn’t open with a piece of his own but one of pianists Frank Kimbrough’s, “The Spins”. Charlap, bobbing and weaving at the piano, played attacking, staccato phrases and hard swinging single lines. Then Gordon, on his primary instrument, alto, traded fours with Stewart, a composer in his own right and most musical drummer.
After a pastoral/ethereal introduction by Charlap, the singing sound of Gordon’s soprano sax, backed by Stewart’s brushes, brought forth the thoughful, graceful lines of Ivan Lins’ “Comecar de Novo”, a.k.a. “The Island”. The improvisations took their cues from the mood of the theme statement.
Back on alto, Gordon dug into “Deal”, his bop for the millenium in a biting, flowing solo with a tone of his own...Charlap and Stewart then exchanged ideas before the former cascaded like ( at times ) an abstract Bill Evans, and the latter played one of his well-constructed solos that totally absorbed your interest.
By this time, it had sunk in that this was not your usual blues-ballad-original kind of set. Gordon began his original “Currents” on soprano but switched to alto for the improvisation.... Charlap ranged far and wide and Stewart was as ever propulsive, yet sensitive to the solists needs.
On alto, Gordon soloed in an out of tempo introduction to what turned out to be, after the trio joined in, a Body and Soul that was oblique, but still beautiful....
A last original by Gordon, “Joe Said So”, (dedicated to Joe Lovano), closed the set. Martin plucked alone to lead in the rest of the section and pealed away leading to Gordon’s alto, exposing the upbeat melody and carrying the happy spirit into his exploration....
This is music with a personal vision. Music without artifice, deeply felt, played by serious young veterans. Gordon won the monk Competition in nov.1996. From 97 he has played with T.S. Monk’s Monk on Monk among other assignments, but the quartet is truly his heart.
"Jon is one of the greatest alto players ever"- Phil Woods
"Gordon has embraced the history of his instrument, carrying with it the ability to extend music as a universal language"- Wayne Shorter
"Not only a great soloist, but also possesses a gorgeous tone."- Kenny Washington
..."a masterful young altoist with a brilliant future ahead of him".- Joe Lovano
"One of the finest musicians of his generation and deserves a great deal more recognition than he has received from the jazz media."- Ken Dryden
4 + 1/2 Stars-"Gordon has created a multifaceted statement that invites repeated investigations. He's onto something important."- Down Beat