Wycliffe Gordon

This Rhythm on My Mind

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"Fun" is a word that one seldom hears in connection with jazz anymore. It's a word that easily describes Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway and many others who reigned supreme during jazz' pre-bop era, but the more jazz moved in a generally intellectual direction in the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s -- the more jazz musicians sought to be associated with "high art" rather than pop culture -- the less fun jazz' image became. But the word "fun" is most definitely applicable on This Rhythm on My Mind, a Wycliffe Gordon/Jay Leonhart collaboration that also includes tenor saxmen Wayne Escoffery and Harry Allen (not to be confused with the hip-hop journalist) and percussionist Jim Saporito. Although trombonist Gordon and acoustic bassist Leonhart are primarily instrumentalists, this 2006 date is vocal-oriented; Gordon and Leonhart both contribute to the album's vocals, and their fondness for the vocal styles of Armstrong and Waller is hard to miss -- which is not to say that This Rhythm on My Mind has a totally pre-bebop mindset. Actually, this 56-minute CD is more bop than anything, and bop vocalists like Babs Gonzales and Jon Hendricks are an influence along with Armstrong and Waller. An album that was strictly pre-Charlie Parker in its approach would not include Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," which is a welcome part of the program along with material ranging from Gordon and Leonhart originals to Lester Young's "Lester Leaps In" and Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" (two well-known standards that came out of swing but have been used for bop and post-bop purposes time and time again). This Rhythm on My Mind is not the most essential disc that either Gordon and Leonhart have contributed to, but it's a consistently enjoyable and good-natured demonstration of the fact that jazz -- for all its complexity and intellectualism -- can still have fun.

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