Guitarist/composer and Oakland Bay Area resident John William Gordon’s self-produced, released and named CD employs the talents of some great side-musicians. Chief among them is the wonderfully inventive bassist Jeff Chambers. He’s has worked with, among others, Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock. While this may be Gordon’s CD and Chambers may only be playing on six of the nine tunes, he truly steals the show. Chambers’ solid conception of time, brilliant harmonic conceptions and ability to pull other musicians into his orbit, makes this disc a real find for fans and students of great bass playing.
It’s not that Chambers is a brilliant soloist, which he is - witness his excellently sympathetic solo on "Bamboozelema" and quirky Munsters quote on "Harm Alarm" - or that he is able to take disparate guitar and drum lines and meld them together with his supportive bass lines as on "Distillery," it’s that Chambers does all of this and still keeps the open-ended sessions from becoming pedantic - just observe his sensitive play behind the drum solo on "Ripper Snapper."
While Boston’s Rick Rivera on drums and the other bassist, New York’s Todd Sickafoose, are good and supportive, they just don’t quite get up to Chambers’ extremely high level of musicianship. Rivera does his best to find unique ways to frame Gordon’s truly unique compositions and Sickafoose’s work is oddly but interestingly edgy.
All of this, however, should not make you think Gordon’s guitar is an afterthought. On the contrary, Gordon’s guitar is always front and center as he welds himself through some of his tricky originals. "Belly’s Bounce" is a short but fiery up tempo burner that allows Gordon to unleash some tasteful playing, while "Quindnunc Mo" puts Gordon in a reflective mood going back to 1970s stereo separation tricks.
Not all of the tunes, however, work. "That Old Dream" doesn’t really move forward and "Folly Stoll" is a bit of a puzzler. All told, Gordon still has work to do, but his compositional start is promising.