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Track listing:

1. Contemplations
2. Fish Out Of Water
3. Persistence
4. Watching The Storm Go By
5. Structural One-ness
6. Anxious Moments
7. 1*4*3
8. Quest For Sanity
9. Flowers That Beckon

Terry Gordon - trumpet /flugelhorn, Eric Walentowicz - saxes/flute, Gordon Tibbits - guitar
George Muscatello - guitar
Jason Rafalak - bass
Matthew Maguire - drums

click here for audio samples or to purchase this CD

click here to learn more about the Terry Gordon Quintet

TERRY GORDON QUINTET - Contemplations (Flying Gurnard Records)

by J Hunter

You know the old saying, “Little things mean a lot”? In music, even a little change, a little addition, a little subtraction can mean the difference between good music and great music. Contemplations – the latest disc from the Terry Gordon Quintet – proves this theory to be true.

Let me be clear here: I like this group, and I like this disc. Gordon and his compatriots have delivered a well-produced package of all-original material that combines a straight-ahead bop sensibility with the electric wanderlust that fused Miles Davis at Fillmore. At its best, jazz is an exploratory medium, and the music on Contemplations (mostly penned by Gordon), definitely wants to explore.

While Gordon is the leader of the band, it’s fair to say that multi-instrumentalist Eric Walentowicz is, at the very least, an equal partner in the quintet’s sound. It’s in musical conversation during the ethereal opening title track, in the laughing sax lines to the blowing “Fish Out Of Water” (one of two tracks Walentowicz penned), the ‘Second’ Bill Evans-like soprano sax in the jammed-out “Structural One-Ness”, and the airy flute that lightens the samba of “Watching The Storm Go By.” Gordon is an accomplished player on both trumpet and flugelhorn, and his compositions are solid, but Walentowicz helps firm up each musical picture.

But Walentowicz’ contributions aren’t the little change I was talking about. That rests in the quintet’s guitar chair, where the duty was split (presumably between the two sessions Contemplations was recorded) between Gordon Tibbits and George Muscatello. Muscatello is currently listed on the band’s masthead, so one has to assume a change was made after the first session. Tibbits’ wailing solos definitely fit some of the disc’s ‘Miles Gets Funky’ cuts like “Structural One-Ness” and “Persistence”. However, he makes no attempt to break out of that mode, making him an easy target for the same criticism Mike Stern got early in his career. Even on “1-4-3” – Contemplations’ only ballad – you get the sense Tibbets is just biding time until he can start cranking out heavy-metal riffs again.

While Tibbets was a creature of habit, Muscatello is a creature of range. He understands music is not “only good when it’s loud.” His lines on “Fish Out Of Water” and the hard-bopping “Anxious Moments” are pure Wes Montgomery, choosing content over volume. However, he can definitely wail when the situation calls for it. He conjures up feedback-fueled cacophony to lead off Contemplations’ second jam piece, “Quest For Sanity”. While Tibbits weighed down the music, Muscatello takes it a little higher.

While there are no bad cuts on Contemplations, you have to think how much better the disc would have been if Gordon had re-recorded those first pieces with Muscatello on guitar. Maybe it was a question of time. But given the time since the disc was recorded, one can only wonder what the Terry Gordon Quintet has in store for us in the future. There’s something to contemplate.

J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.