RECORDING REVIEWS review of Tomorrow Calling

By J Hunter, September 2014

The word is we’re going to have a new Arch Stanton Quartet release to play with soon, and that makes me very happy. But late last year, ASQ horn man Terry Gordon reminded us that he’s been doing this “group thing” for quite some time! Yup, Gordon put his hard-bopping electric band back together, and hearing him dance and dice with saxman Eric Walentowicz again is simply awesome.  The strutting opener “Looking In,” the borderline-insane “Concatenated Cogency” and the lovely ballad “I Remember Patti” are all great, but the cherry on top of the cake?  Michael-Louis Smith’s tremendous guitar work gives Tomorrow Calling three great voices to draw you in and keep you cross-eyed.  So nice!

International Trumpet Guild Journal review of Tomorrow Calling

By Jeremy Brekke, January 2014

Tomorrow Calling is the fourth release for this quintet led by trumpeter Terry Gordon.  This release explores original music of various forms composed by members of the group.  Grace, Tomorrow Calling, and Be Right Back (Return Imminent) by Gordon, as well as The Sound by saxophonist Eric Walentowicz deliver catchy melodies that leave the listener humming them after hearing them for the first time.  Analogue is a great funk tune by bassist Bill Lawrence, and drummer Matthew Maguire contributes a wonderful ballad, I Remember Patti.  Gordon’s Concatenated Cogency is a favorite that begins with a saxophone/trumpet duet and develops with intriguing rhythmic and harmonic alterations with overlapping solos.  The band sounds tight and relaxed with a great rapport that has developed since the band’s first release in 1996.  With a piano-less group, the guitar comping of Michael-Louis Smith is noteworthy, and the solid collaboration of bassist Lawrence and drummer Maguire supports the solos very well.  Long, legato lines are pronounced in Gordon’s trumpet solos and Walentowicz delivers a great tenor and soprano saxophone sound.  Tomorrow Calling is a rich and innovative release that melds the sounds of tradition and creativity.

Metroland review of Tomorrow Calling

By Jeff Nania, June 13, 2013

Tomorrow Calling is the Terry Gordon Quintet’s fourth release overall and the second on WEPA records. This group’s strengths are many, from the proven writing skills of Gordon and saxophonist Eric Walentowicz, to the always-fiery approach of guitarist Michael-Louis Smith.

The disc opens with a groove-based tune called “Looking In” that starts with bass and drums until the guitar, trumpet, and soprano all stew on a dissonant sub-melody before the real magic happens. It would be hard to find a more steadfast heartbeat than that provided by drummer Matthew Maguire and bassist Bill Lawrence, as demonstrated throughout the album, but especially with the start-and-stop drum groove and fretless bass riff on “Analogue,” which also features a fluid funky bass solo from Lawrence.

The title track starts off with a cool counterpoint between Gordon and Walentowicz before making way to a subdued melody that occurs only at the beginning of the tune. It starts in the bass and extends into the trumpet before breaking into the main theme that carries on throughout the tune and winds up closing it down too. This theme is punctuated by Smith’s dissonant rhythmic slashes that propel the tune forward and really give it a futuristic, retro-television-spy-show feel.

This album is packed full of diverse sounds from deep groove-based funk to near-free jazz (“Concatenated Cogency”) and even a beautiful samba called “The Sound,” which is dedicated to the saxophonist who also went by that name—Stan Getz. And then there is Gordon’s “Be Right Back (Return Imminent)” that starts off sounding like a pair of windshield wipers on a rainy day and is juxtaposed with a quick, dissonant swing melody that switches back and forth for the solos.

The distinctive package design by Vincent Pascuzzo also serves to demonstrate what this material is all about—searching for the next frontier. Tomorrow Calling.

All About Jazz review of Contemplations

By J. Robert Bragonier, October 4, 2003

The Terry Gordon Quintet has made music as a group for more than a decade, and it shows: their ensemble is tight and intuitive, their soloing bright and confident, and their improvisation brash and innovative. Contemplations (2002) is their second CD; their first, Wakeup Call, was released in 1996.

Many of these nine originals (seven by Gordon and two by Walentowicz) are designed to stretch the envelope: the more conventional are bop-oriented mainstream interspersed with Latin jazz and funk; the more adventuresome are unabashedly and unapologetically rock-strewn and avant-garde. “Contemplations” is an aptly titled minor key Latin exploration, pensive and melancholic, while “Fish Out of Water” is a quirky, infectious blues, with strong trumpet and Scofield-like guitar solos. The composer Walentowicz achieves an oboe-like sound from his soprano; at times, the group has almost a chamber quality. “Persistence” is funk with a vengeance; Tibbits’ guitar solo is rock candy, Gordon’s trumpet is crisp but full-bodied, and Rafalak’s bass solo crackles with energy and electricity.

The noteworthy flute playing of Walentowicz, plus solos all around, constitute “Watching the Storm Go By”; the changes are Latin spun sugar, sweet and simple but without a lot of nutritive value. “Structural One-ness,” on the other hand, is tart and fusiony, more than 13 minutes on a miniscule theme, nagging, sort of like a musical toothache. Walentowicz’s “Anxious Moments,” titularly more frenetic, is actually more ordered, an interesting hard-bop song form built on what sound like fragments of whole-tone scale.

Another ballad, “1-4-3,” features Gordon on fluegelhorn, as did “Contemplations,” and provides an emotionally rich change of pace. But not for long. “Quest for Sanity,” an apparently unsuccessful search*, is nearly 11 ½ minutes of ordered chaos, unstructured and avant-garde, although the piece maintains a driving, rhythmic center throughout much of it. The eclectic and uneven ride ends, unruffled by a uniquely inspired drum solo, on a decidedly more contemplative note with the dreamy, slow ballad, “Flowers That Beckon.”

* Postscript: I gave Contemplations one more spin to detect any hint of sanity appearing near the end, but alas! There was none to be had…


Albany Jazz review of Homeward Bound:

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.


International Trumpet Guild Journal review of Homeward Bound

By Jason Dovel

A fine disc of nine new jazz compositions, Homeward Bound is the latest release by the Terry Gordon Quintet.  The disc opens with the title track, “Homeward Bound”, an original composition by Gordon.  His writing is excellent, as he contrasts cascading contrapuntal lines with unison melody, creating a clever and catchy tune.  In his improvised solo, Gordon uses many short, isolated motives that combine for a meaningful whole.  Contrast of style and tempo is found in “The Lonesome Caballero”.  After a slow, melancholic introduction by the muted trumpet, the tempo picks up as the trumpet and saxophone begin a unison melody.  Finn’s excellent guitar solo sets the pace for the other improvised solos.  Gordon’s capable improvisation follows, skillfully exhibiting a variety of gestures and ideas.  “Lick for Nick” is a speedy tune that finds the trumpet and saxophone repeatedly transitioning from unison to harmony.  Gordon’s improvised solo on this track is pressing, yet never hurried.  At times on this disc, imprecision between the trumpet and saxophone is evident, as well as occasional discrepancies in intonation.  Nevertheless, Gordon’s musical ideas are implemented with energy and enthusiasm throughout the album.  His compositions and performances reflect a blend of tradition and innovation.

Metroland review of Wakeup Call

By David Malachowski

Within the first anxious moments of the Terry Gordon Quintet’s Wakeup Call, you know immediately that it’s not elevator jazz.  The starting point, “Deep Brindle”, begins with an urgent drum-trumpet workout that leads into a furious sax ride, followed by an explosive, frenzied guitar solo.  “Runnin’ Around” really swings, while the gorgeous title track, “Wakeup Call” (written by Eric Peirce), finds its groove.  From turbulent progressive tunes to flawless traditional-style material, their blend of chaos and clarity is remarkable.

From the inspiring virtuosity of Gordon’s trumpet, the fiery drums of Jonathan Peirce, and burning lead lines from guitarist Gordon Tibbits (where’s he been hiding?) to Joe Dragone’s caterwauling vocals (sic) and the capable bass of Eric Peirce, the Terry Gordon Quintet are an extraordinary group for any town; the fact that they’re based in the Capital Region only makes it even more delicious.

Wakeup Call is jazz in the truest, freest sense.  Though the arrangements are fresh and inventive, there’s nothing dramatically new or groundbreaking in it.  The trick is that the quintet’s passionate playing makes it sound new.  Seek out this band and their CD. review of Homeward Bound

By Rob Johnson

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 principle 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 group’s leader.

“Percival’s Disappearance” is sadly the shortest cut of the CD, for it is 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 Matthew Maguire on drums cook at just the right temperature to serve this disc up nearly perfectly.  Bravo.