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Track listing:
1. Homeward Bound
2. The Lonesome Caballero
3. Why I Fancy Nancy
4. Percival's Disappearance
5. Focus 57
6. Toys That Scatter
7. Knot So Fast
8. Tigger & Tike
9. Lick For Nick

Terry Gordon-trumpet, fluegelhorn
Eric Walentowicz-tenor and soprano saxophones
George Muscatello-guitar (tracks 3,4,7,8,9)
Joe Finn-guitar (tracks 1,2)
John Dworkin-guitar (tracks 5,6)
Bill Lawrence- bass
Matthew Maguire-drums

click here to learn more about the Terry Gordon Quintet

Homeward Bound (WEPA Records)

by J Hunter

You can wear your hair the same way you did in high school. After all, it's a free country (and that's the only explanation for why mullets still roam the land). You can listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, think the same thoughts, do the same things the same way… and the world will blithely ignore you and just keep on keeping on. Change happens. That's a fact. And that fact does not sit well with some people. Ask Bob Dylan. Ask Miles Davis. And, on a local level, ask Terry Gordon.

The Terry Gordon Quintet has just released its first disc in three years, Homeward Bound. This should be a cause for celebration; it's a great date filled with solid performances and inspired compositions. Moreover, it expands on themes and styles heard on their last effort, Contemplations (Flying Gurnard Records, 2003). And yet, the liner notes to Homeward Bound seem to be designed to cushion a blow.

Accompanied by a wistful poem by Phoebe Cary, the notes tell us that Homeward Bound “offers nine new compositions that move (the TGQ) ever-so-slightly from its familiar 'outside' perch and closer to convention.” We read that the band is on a “journey” that is “richly creative and well worth continuing.” Sounds innocuous, right? Maybe to you and me, but to some who have followed the Gordon Quintet since its early days in the 90's, the words sound like spin, and the “ever-so-slight” course-change looks like surrender and betrayal. If you're of that mind, I have three words for you: Take. A. Breath.

When I reviewed Contemplations, I felt one change could have turned a good disc into a really good disc. I felt that way every time Gordon switched out the guitar chair, leaving behind the Mike Stern heaviness of Gordon Tibbits for the chameleon-like flexibility of George Muscatello. (Tibbits has been off the TGQ masthead for some time, though he does have a writing credit here.) Even though Gordon splits the guitar duties here between three players - Muscatello plays on five cuts, while Joe Finn and John Dworkin split the remaining four - there is no loss of momentum, because they each have a unique aesthetic that helps take the music to the next level.

I could listen to Finn all day, any day, but hearing him in a larger unit - and in a setting where he is not the primary focus - gives me even more respect for Finn's abilities. His solid-body attack adds color and buoyancy to the disc-opening title track, and he infuses bassist Bill Lawrence's “The Lonesome Caballero” with a flamenco sensibility that sucks us deeper into this fast-paced jazz Spaghetti Western. Dworkin punches in on the multi-time “Focus 57” and the Tibbits comp “Toys That Scatter”, though there is nothing scattered about it; reedman Eric Walentowicz' snarling tenor sax fills wrap tightly around Gordon's wonderfully clean solo lines. But where Tibbits would have used the Hammer of God, Dworkin uses a laser-guided scalpel to cut out a respectable (and appropriate) piece of the action.

I've waxed poetic about Muscatello ever since I first heard him with the Brian Patneaude Quartet. Everything I've seen and heard from him proves he increases the value of any musical real estate he stands on, and his work here is no exception. Muscatello is positively spooky as he creates in space on “Knot So Fast.” He gives the bluesy “Why I Fancy Nancy” an even deeper shade, and he adds a third voice to the wild conversation that is “Percival's Disappointment.” The latter tune reminds me of Monk's “Epistrophy”, in that it is this amazing thing that is towering over you one moment, gone like yesterday the next. Lawrence and drummer Matthew Maguire keep the proceedings from flying off into space while Muscatello and the horns keep our jaws hanging. Gordon writes the lion's share of the tunes here, though other members get their licks in - most notably Walentowicz' and Maguire's hard-bopping Nick Brignola tribute, “Lick for Nick.”

There is unswerving quality and genuine maturity to Homeward Bound, and no matter what the TGQ's base may think, that's a good thing - a really good thing. So wear your hair however you want, but don't pass this disc by, because it's a blast… and not from the past.

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.