One of the most inspiring aspects of being an inventive, versatile and adventurous jazz musician is the ability to thrive creatively and cultivate opportunity and leadership no matter where an individual’s journey leads. Veteran, well-traveled drummer Matt Gordy’s personal, family based decision back in 2006 to leave Boston – where he had many longstanding gigs, including subbing for the Boston Pops – for L.A. couldn’t have been easy.
Yet he soon established himself as an essential institution on the local club scene. Vibing with the equally dynamic likes of Alan Pasqua (piano), Chris Colangelo (bass), Ido Meshulam (trombones), Ron Stout (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Jeff Ellwood (sax) as the Jazz Tonite Sextet, Gordy on his new album Be With Me celebrates the many fascinating joys of living, working and innovating on the L.A. jazz scene by swinging vibrantly between intensely percussive whirlwind cookers like the dashing “Topsy” (a gem from the Count Basie repertoire) and subtle and sensual but no less breathtaking original gems like the light funk “Camouflage” and the dreamy and beautiful, horn textured “Chloe,” written for Gordy’s granddaughter’s 10th birthday – which includes one of Ellwood’s most passionate solos.
Testament to the drummer’s unique sense of history and talent for reframing classics as contemporary expressions, the collection includes several tunes that pay homage to previous works in clever ways. The brisk, horn fired romp “You and the Night and the Music” is not only dedicated to Mulgrew Miller, but its brass textures are based on Miller’s solo on drummer Tony Williams’ trio album Young at Heart.
Likewise, the bustling and boisterous Gordy original “Spring Ahead” is presented as a contrafact to the late Chick Corea’s Return to Forever classic “Spain.” Gordy composed the romantic title track (featuring lilting vocals by Sherry Williams, who repeats the wondrous favor on a majestic romp through Bobby Hebbs’ “Sunny”) in honor of Joni Mitchell, whom he worked with in Boston on her 2001 Both Sides Now tour.
He based the composition on the chord changes to the singer-songwriter’s iconic tune “A Case of You.” All of these fresh compositional concepts are brought to sparkling life with players so intuitive with each other that it’s no surprise to learn most tracts were recorded in a few takes – as if they were simply doing another gig at the clubs in L.A. whose stages they grace so often.