This wonderful quintet date, recorded live at the Regattabar at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, features drummer Gordy in tandem with altoist Marc Phaneuf, pianist Ben Cook, trumpeter Phil Grenadier and bassist Todd Baker.
The Mingus-esque opener, "Proko," opens with a drum figure that reminds of Joe Morello, then spreads wide for the twin voicings of trumpet and alto that dominate the nearly eleven minute piece. Having not heard them before, I'm reminded that not all of the great bands in the land have major label contracts. If this unit was signed to a major label, they would be getting air play around the country. Not an altogether free jazz feel, the tenor of the explorations here is nonetheless improvisatory in nature. Gordy's resume includes work with ex-Mingus pianist Jaki Byard and seven years with a symphony orchestra in Venezuela. He's performed in a daunting variety of settings, from Joni Mitchell and Al Martino to the Boston Pops and the Boston Lyric Opera Company. That wide ranging variety of musical experiences makes him an extremely versatile player, certainly. It also makes for a creative and sensitive drummer.
The bass and piano intro to the title piece is as lush as the tune it ushers. Grenadier's trumpet shines here, and Phaneuf's alto is nothing less than virtuosic. Gordy's playing here is terrifically thunderous at times, ala Tony Williams. While Phaneuf sometimes come from a Bobby Watson or David Murray bag, "Right On The Island" suggests many hours listening to Coltrane. Cook's playing is evocative of Herbie Hancock and Grenadier's of Miles. To call the composition moving is an understatement. The audience lucky enough to have participated at the recording is appreciative and hushed. This is that kind of music. Emotionally charged, technically brilliant, and otherwordly in its execution. One of the most impressive discs of the year.