8 May 2008

Post-bop perfection

Jon Gordon appeared with a student jazz ensemble at the Band Room last night. This was just the last of three nights of great concerts. (I think I need triage after this triad of concerts over a trio of days). Jon Gordon was not a name I knew of, but a history with Maria Schneider’s Orchestra and Harry Connick Jr and a provenance of New York were enough to interest me. Then there’s a rave quote from Phil Woods, a doyen of post-Bird altoists, who seems to pass the mantle to Jon. ‘Nuff said; much expected. And much gained.

Jon played a mainstream set of standards and a few tunes I didn’t recognise, perhaps originals. The standards were old friends: There will never be another you, Invitation, Skylark, Tenor madness, Infant eyes, Softly as the morning sunrise. He played these with respect but malleable interpretations, freely bending and delaying and moving the melody lines, and blowing with chromatic freedom over the charts. This was flexibility and harmonic freedom within the tight constraints of the post-bop style: sustained, lengthy, 8th-note lines moving in and out of the base harmony at will. Not ecstatic wails; more ordered, very challenging, sinuous, classic lines. It was a pleasure to hear such control and skill over the whole range of the alto, with honks shortly preceding high pitched but always defined notes. It was a masterly performance of classy, intelligent harmonic play.

Jon was backed by some of the most capable students currently at the Jazz School. The evening started with a trio format. Ed Rodrigues played his heartfelt, engrossed drumming style, with Chris Pound rock steady on bass. Dave Rodriguez joined later on guitar. Dave and Ed play regularly together and their complementary responsiveness was obvious, as Dave played simple but mellifluous solos which Ed responded to with clear affinity. Joe Lloyd joined later for some capable and differently styled alto. It was interesting to hear two altos together, rather than adding brass or a tenor. The tones of the two instruments were widely different, as was the playing. I heard Joe’s alto as thinner, toppier, more emotional, and his style as more post-Shorter, passionate in style. Jon was of a classic school: a rounded, middy tone and a more cerebral and calmer approach. No judgemental comparisons here (although I have to recognise Jon’s mastery, of course): these are stylistic differences, and the presence of the two altoists just highlighted the distinctions.

After several days of excellent concerts, I need a few days rest. These have been fabulous performances of markedly different styles, culminating with Jon Gordon’s intelligent, stylistic perfection. But never too much of a good thing.

Jon Gordon (alto sax) played with a student ensemble of Ed Rodriguez (drums), Chris Pound (bass), Dave Rodrigues (guitar) and Joe Lloyd (alto sax).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems like Jon Gordon's gig is pretty good huh.

I've never heard of Jon Gordon before till my friend burnt me Jon's Within Worlds album last week. I really like the album. I was never into jazz, especially contemporary ones. I went to his website to find out who he is. He seems very open and interactive. I found his article on recording tips seems a good read for musicians too.

From reading this blog entry and seeing the pics, I want to go to Jon's gig if I get a chance.

Thanks for the nice pics.

Anonymous said...

It seems like Jon Gordon's gig is pretty good huh.

I've never heard of Jon Gordon before till my friend burnt me Jon's Within Worlds album last week. I really like the album. I was never into jazz, especially contemporary ones. I went to his website to find out who he is. He seems very open and interactive. I found his article on recording tips seems a good read for musicians too.

From reading this blog entry and seeing the pics, I want to go to Jon's gig if I get a chance.

Thanks for the nice pics.