Ken Dryden review of Contrasts-2002

Ken Dryden review of Contrasts-2002

Review by Ken Dryden
It is no exaggeration to say that saxophonist Jon Gordon and pianist Bill Charlap are two of the finest musicians of their generation; both have a strong link to Phil Woods -- Gordon studied with the alto sax master and has recorded with him, while Charlap began serving as Woods' regular pianist. The final connection is that Woods produced the sessions that resulted in this outstanding collection of duets. The two musicians have played together frequently since attending the same high school, and their familiarity with one another helps each of them in anticipating where the other is likely to go. Although Gordon is best known for his work on alto sax (he won the Thelonious Monk alto sax competition) he begins on soprano sax for a sterling interpretation of "Stardust." Gordon's swaggering alto sax solo on "Young at Heart" is supported by Charlap's imaginative supporting lines. The studio sessions also include strong interpretations of standards like "These Foolish Things," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," and "Over the Rainbow." In addition to a strident take of Thelonious Monk's "Bye Ya," the duo's interpretation of works by Jack Montrose ("For Sue," with Gordon on soprano) and Kenny Werner ("Compensation," with Gordon playing alto) should have jazz fans searching out earlier recordings by their respective composers. If that's not enough, the two men collaborated on two originals: the intricate "Contrasts" (with soprano sax) and the fragile miniature ballad "Epilogue," which concludes the CD. Outstanding music from two gentlemen who deserve a great deal more recognition than either has received from the jazz media.

Press quotes

"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