Joe Gordon (tp), Jimmy Woods (as), Dick Whittington, Amos Trice (p), Jimmy Bond (b), Milt Turner (d)
Reference: FSRCD 879
Bar code: 8427328608794
Born in Boston, Mass. in 1928, trumpeter Joe Gordon was one of the two local musiciansDick Twardzik was the otherwith whom Bird said he enjoyed playing. On the East coast, he worked with such notables as Parker, Monk, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie and Herb Pomeroy, recording his first album as leader in 1954. Facing into a musically brilliant career, but with a problem-filled and heroin-plagued personal life, in 1958 he moved to Los Angeles, where he soon became a valued member of the West Coast jazz scene,working as a sideman and joining Shelly Manne for about two years. He also toured the coast with Thelonious Monk.
Despite his problems, Gordon was well-liked and respected. He had a clean, crisp attack with a bright, brassy sound and a singing quality that made his solos flow easily. His July 1961 album Looking Good! reflects these considerable virtues and, in addition, introduced the hard-toned, fervid alto sax of Jimmy Woods.
The other sideswith Woods group from his album Awakening!were recorded in September that year. They were the last he made before his untimely death. According to his fellow musicians, he was playing better than ever when his tiny apartment caught fire and he received severethird-degree burns. He died at Santa Monica Hospital, on November 4, 1963, aged just 35.
"Trumpeter Joe Gordon hailed from Boston, but recorded for west coast label Contemporary records. He is one of those jazz musicians who tragically had their life cut short and, in volume seemingly made a modest contribution to the music. However, in terms of quality he was a top grade practitioner who would surely have become a major name had he recorded over a long period of time. One could make a parallel with Booker Little, though stylistically Gordon was influenced more by Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown and possibly the young Lee Morgan from his early Blue Note period. In fact, the clean and crisp tone of Gordon's trumpet playing begs further comparison, this time with Blue Mitchell, especially the tenure of the latter as part of the Horace Silver band. Gordon and Silver together would have been a mouth watering prospect fro jazz fans. This fantastic pairing of albums within equally allows the listener to hear the immensely talented alto saxophonist Jimmy Woods who serves as leader on the second album included, 'Awakening', from 1961-1962.
Gordon plied his trade in Boston and studied at the New England Conservatoire under Fred Berman and while there began working with a whole host of musicians including Art Blakey, Charlie Mariano and even briefly with Charlie Parker. In the spring of 1958, Joe Gordon moved to Los Angeles and that is where and when the association with Contemporary truly commenced. He joined Shelly Manne's group for two years and performed with Benny Carter and Barney Kessel. The album contained within was his second and, sadly, last as a leader and is an all-original set, showcasing the fully matured trumpeter as a composer of no little talent. This writer immediately succumbed to the charms of 'Terra Firma Irma', which comes across as a different take on Donald Byrd's seminal 'Jeanine' and just as catchy in tone. A Latin-themed, 'Mariana', stands out for the superb use of polyrhythms by drummer Milt Turner and the gorgeous sounding, 'Co-op blues' is just as engaging with a warm alto solo from Woods. One surprise is the muted harmon that emanates from Gordon on the relaxed tempo of 'A song for Richard', a piece that is almost akin to a more uptempo take on 'Autumn leaves'. An iconic photo cover of Joe Gordon in his prime by photographer Roger Marshutz practically defines the era.
The second album groups together two sessions from 1961 and 1962 respectively and features two differing line-ups with Jimmy Bond and a then young Gary Peacock alternating on bass. Stand out numbers here include 'Anticipation', which is a truly thrilling way to end the album and a re-reading of 'Love for sale', that Miles and Cannonball had recorded a near definitive version of on Blue Note just a couple of years previously. Woods excels as a leader here with Gordon performing on just two numbers including the title track while Martin Banks takes over trumpet duties elsewhere. As befitting a Fresh Sound re-issue, premier quality sound and no stones left unturned with highly informative inner sleeve notes
What would make a splendid follow up re-issue is the 'Awakening' album that Jimmy Woods and an all-star cast of musicians recorded back in 1963. These included musicians of the calibre of Andrew Hill, Carmell Jones, Harold Land while no less than Elvin Jones was featured on drums. Boplicity re-issued it on vinyl back in the late 1980s, but it really should be generally available again on CD in Europe because it is a bona fide classic and one that never received its full due first time round. Full marks to Jordi Pujol for re-issuing this fine duo of albums."
Tim Stenhouse (February 2016)
"One of the wonderful things about Spain-based Fresh Sound Records is that they find excellent artists that slipped through the cracks of most jazz fans. This single cd of trumpeter Joe Gordon is a perfect example.
Gordon was a slick bopper who had a respectable career as a sideman with Charlie Parker, Horace Silver and Art Blakey. Unfortunately, he died before his time in a house fire in 1963, so these sessions here are the last he did, and they are quite impressive. He leads a quintet with Jimmy Woods/as, Dick Whittington/p, Jimmy Bond/b and Milt Turner/dr for some snappy material such as Terra Firma Irma and a swinging Non-Viennese Waltz Blues which showcases Gordons warm and sleek tone. Hes also a sideman on Jimmy Woods Awakening album, soloing on a wondrously tangential read of Love For Sale while Woods pungent alto bears down on the clever A New Twist.
If youre a hard bop fan, youll flock to this one."
George W. Harris (January 18, 2016)
These were the last recordings made by Joe Gordon before he died, aged just 35, following a fire at his home in 1963. He was always a top trumpet man with considerable ability both technically on his instrument and as an improviser. These tracks were made for Contemporary Records and show him at the peak of his considerable powers. Gordon played in the trumpet section of Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in 1956 and later worked in the LA area with Shelly Manne’s combo and various other groups.
On the first eight tracks here he receives solid support from Whittington and the rhythm players, Bond and Turner keeping the lines flowing. Mariana is the sort of funky, soul-type blues popular at the time and the quintet have a good time on it. Gordon’s brassy tone and bluesy lines motor along inventively and impressively. Woods is also happy in the blues idiom although his lines are more outside, veering towards the new (at the time) avant-garde. Heleen gives the trumpeter a chance to show his ballad playing proficiency, which he does effectively. There is much variation in his tone and lyrical approach on the various different selections, showing a wide range and ability. Woods too is impressive, if a little far out in this setting but he comes into his own more on the final five tracks where he is the leader and able to take the music in his own direction. Both sessions give the impression that much thought went into the arrangements prior to the recordings.
Derek Ansell, Jazz Journal (February 2016)