The Joe Gordon Story, Part 2: Hard Bop
Joe Gordon replaced Clifford Brown in Art Blakey’s pre-Messengers group in early 1954. That band, with alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce, pianist Walter Bishop, Jr. and bassist Bernie Griggs, recorded the album Blakey for EmArcy in May. Gordon stayed with Blakey for about six months.
In September, with Blakey, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, pianist Junior Mance, and bassist Jimmy Schenck, Joe recorded for the first time as a leader, also for EmArcy. The album, a 10-inch LP, was titled Introducing Joe Gordon.
The album’s reviews were mixed. Down Beat’s Nat Hentoff praised it (April 6, 1955), writing: “Gordon, though still a little unsteady…unleashes a power and a comet-like imagination that heralds one of the exciting newer voices of the year…All in all, a bracing sample of somewhat raw but always moving jazz.”
Bill Coss in the May Metronome was less complimentary, faulting the group for a lack of imagination: “Trumpeter Gordon and tenorist Charlie Rouse play in a bop-time that’s disastrous from my point of view…This is old-time bop, and it just won’t do today.” Incidentally, both Coss and Hentoff were Bostonians and quite familiar with Joe Gordon and his playing. I find their difference of opinion a fascinating footnote in this story.
You can judge for yourself here on “Boos Bier,” a “Tunisia”-inspired tune written by Quincy Jones.
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