Jon Gordon Quartet/Quintet: Along the way

Score one for the judges: Jon Gordon, winner of the 1996 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, here demonstrates that his promise has staying power. One expects facility from a prize-winner, and there’s plenty of that; but, more than his chops, one comes away admiring his instinct for the complete phrase. His solos are not strings of licks, but thoughts that spring from the material at hand. His supporting cast here includes Mark Turner on tenor sax, Kevin Hays on piano, Joe Martin on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. Drummond in particular lifts the level of the entire session, save for “Empathy,” a freely-cast piece that recalls Steve Coleman but never gels. Gordon’s other compositions hold up better, particularly the title track, a pleasingly asymmetrical composition that gives the soloists plenty to chew on. Gordon is a cool and confident musician who will give his colleagues and listeners plenty to think about in the course of his career.