Criss Cross Jazz
A high-spirited bonhomie practically radiates from this album, as you might infer from a quick glance at its titles alone, even before sitting down and spending an hour in the company of this fine band. If anyone still wishes to argue that Gordon has indeed ascended to the ranks of the great trombone players—if not exactly great trombonists/composers—“Speak Low” and a cover of “Mr. P.C.” ought to dispel any doubts, the former boasting an opening section that mixes gutbucket blues with a delicate, urbane suavity, as Harris’ soft-edged trombone lines slowly infuse the canting phrases of tenor saxophonist Stacy Dilliard’s extended intro. The Coltrane number is likewise dutiful to the blues, only in this instance—as one might expect—it is bassist Reginald Veal who spars with Gordon, providing for an atypical duet on what is nominally Gordon’s solo as Veal emerges from the background to claim co-billing. Less successful are the moments reserved for outright clowning, like the concluding “Hush Yo’ Mouf!!”—a title borrowed from Bo Diddley—which reprises the second half of album opener “Shhh!!! (The Band Is Trying to Play),” a talking blues/faux-vocalese number admonishing disrespectful audiences. The man must have been truly vexed.