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.