Upstate New York is fortunate to be favored by the ensemble playing and soloing of the Terry Gordon Quintet for over a decade. The rest of us are allowed to enjoy the TGQ’s brand of straight ahead jazz on their latest CD, Homeward Bound, recently released on the WEPA Records label.
The first component of the Quintet one notices is a lightness in the ensemble passages caused by the use of a guitar in place of a piano as the principal chording instrument. The title cut, first up on the album, features this lightness of tone most enthusiastically since the piece is rife with counterpoint in the theme.
The guitar duties are divided amongst three musicians, all of whom are up to the task of the challenging compositions, all but three of which bear the imprint of the groups’ leader.
"Percival’s Disappearance" is sadly the shortest cut of the CD, for it is also the most exciting. A boppish-unison line gives way to trumpet, tenor sax and guitar soloing at once without giving in to mere cacophony. This might be the tune you find yourself coming back to the most, whether in your mind or the "repeat" button on your remote.
If one may be permitted an indulgence, this critic found several passages of Homeward Bound reminiscent of another upstate New York set of musicians - any one of Chuck Mangione’s groups in the mid to late seventies. But before you start remembering Mangione at his sweetest, most yawn-inducing style, please remember that at various times he had several powerful soloists in his band and also wrote some exciting themes.
Other tracks that might catch you are "Why I Fancy Nancy," a groove-based tune that carries off the sense of humor in its title. Or you might dig "Focus 57," a 7/4 minor blues that features a John Scofield-like solo from guitarist John Dworkin.
"Toys That Scatter" put this critic in mind of a mid-60’s Blue Note swinger that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lee Morgan album.
Though not mentioned before this, saxist Eric Walentowicz is a terrific find. (Might we get a solo album, Mr. Walentowicz?) The rhythm section of Bill Lawrence on bass and Mathew Maguire on drums cook at just the right temperature to serve this disc up nearly perfectly. Bravo.