JazzTimes: “This Path”

New York native and longtime Portland resident Gordon Lee, a veteran pianist-arranger-composer and educator, weaves a mesmerizing spell on this singular piano-trio recording. His delicate opener, a modal take on the Chinese folk song “Pao Ma Shan,” sets the evocative tone, which continues with interpretations of Jobim’s “Portrait in Black & White” and Jim Pepper’s “Lakota Song.” Miller’s “Sitting Bull’s Revenge” is a playful reharmonization of “Cherokee,” while his reflective and eloquent “Field on the Hill” is a soulful highlight. For a change of pace there’s the angular blues of “Ninety-Nine, Ninety-Nine,” the flamenco-flavored “Andalucia” (featuring Miguel Bernal on cajón) and a funky take on Lee Morgan’s “Cornbread.”

Bill Milkowski

The Oregonian: “This Path”

Gordon Lee wasn’t satisfied with just one trio for his latest recording, “This Path.” Instead, he enlisted two bass players and two drummers, each lending their signature sounds to this collection of worldly jazz.

Lee, a respected Portland pianist, arranger, composer and educator, has explored many musical styles in four-plus decades in jazz. He’s played with some of the best in the business, locally and nationally, including Bobby Hutcherson, Bill Frisell Mel Brown and the late Jim Pepper. He’s played, composed and arranged styles as diverse as avant-garde, symphonic, fusion and big band, and he’s performed all over the world. All these influences combine on “This Path.”

The music traverses the globe, with seven originals and five arrangements. It begins with “Po Ma Shan,” a Chinese folk song re-imagined by Lee as a modal mesh of east and west. The trio here is rounded out by drummer Carlton Jackson, who plays with touch and color, and sturdy, inspired bassist Dave Captein. This trio is robust, sounding bigger than its three parts, thanks to Lee’s huge chords and complex melodies, as on the fluttering “Dragonfly.” The second trio, with nimble bassist Kevin Deitz and the sure-handed Ron Steen on drums, isn’t strikingly different from the first, but brings a lighter touch to counteract Lee’s attacking style.

The music, even in its global diversity, manages to be cohesive. “Sitting Bull’s Revenge” is a playful interpretation of the bop classic “Cherokee,” while “Niney-Nine, Niney-Nine” is an angular blues. Pepper is honored with a solemn reinterpretation of his beautiful “Lakota Song.” The tunes are all held together by Lee’s distinctive sound, which weaves in and outside the chordal structure. In the middle, the trios get a break as Lee brings in cajon player Miguel Bernal on a Latin-tinged “Andalucia,” adding to the international feel.

Lee’s many influences have made him a strong musician, and one who continues to impress.

Grade: A

All About Music: “This Path”

Gordon Lee comes from a varied musical background, having played a number of different styles as a sideman before turning his focus to being a leader himself. This Path utilizes two separate rhythm sections (either Dave Captein or Kevin Deitz on bass, plus Carlton Jackson or Ron Steen on drums), both of which work hand in hand with the pianist. The opener, “Pao Ma Shan,” is a dramatic interpretation of a Chinese folk song in a post-bop setting. Ernesto Lecuona‘s “Andalucia” substitutes a cajon player for the bass and drums, with Lee recasting this South American favorite as a blend of post-bop and Latin jazz with a waltzing air. Lee‘s sassy treatment of Lee Morgan‘s funky “Cornbread” and moody setting of Antonio Carlos Jobim‘s “Portrait in Black & White” (particularly the eerie introduction) also stand out. Among the pianist’s originals, highlights include his campy, dissonant reworking of “Cherokee” (called “Sitting Bull’s Revenge”) and the choppy Monk-like blues “Niney-Nine, Niney-Nine.”

Ken Dryde: Rating: ****

Audiophile Audition: “This Path “

(Gordon Lee, piano; Dave Captein or Kevin Deitz, doublebass; Carlton Jackson or Ron Steen, drums; Miguel Bernal, cajon [tr. 4])

Lee is a respected Portland, OR pianist, composer, arranger and music educator. He’s performed around the world and with some of the top names in jazz. His diverse expertise covers avant-garde, symphonic, fusion and big band. The many different influences result in an extremely diverse collection of a dozen tracks which he has composed or arranged. The “Lakota Song” and “Sitting Bull’s Revenge” reminded me of a memorable evening Lee arranged and put together as a tribute to the late Native American jazzman Jim Pepper – composer of “Witchee-Tai-To.” “Sitting Bull” is a sort of reimagining of the classic “Cherokee.”

His use of two different bassists and drummers on the various tracks also adds to the diversity of the sounds. A strong blues flavor permeates “Niney-Nine Niney-Nine.”  On some of the tracks Lee employs big chords and quite complex melodic structures, but he always swings. The first two tunes have an Asian influence. I especially enjoyed his composition “Portrait in Black & White” – one of the longest tracks on the CD, at over seven minutes. Overall a fine collection of varied music which should have considerable appeal to many listeners.

Pao Ma Shan, Dragonfly, Minor Discrepancy, Andalucia, Portrait in Black & White, This Path, Lakota Song, Sitting Bull’s Revenge, Niney-Nine Niney-Nine, Cornbread, Cadenza, Field on the Hill

John Henry

Oregon Music News: “This Path”

Gordon Lee has been perhaps our finest Jazz pianist for decades. Of course he’s not the only fine Jazz pianist in Oregon, but he’s pretty much the standard by which others are measured. Although he has several wonderful recordings, his latest is one of the few with a small group.This Path is an album featuring two trios, Lee with Dave Captein on bass and Carlton Jackson on drums and the other with bassist Kevin Deitz and drummer Ron Steen.

Why two trios? How did he pick which to use on what tune? And why such a wide diversity of material?

Find out…
Tom D’Antoni