Album Review of
Be With Me

Written by Joe Ross
March 11, 2022 - 12:54pm EST
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With stops in New York, Massachusetts and Venezuela, drummer, composer, arranger Matt Gordy’s 40-year career has now taken him to Southern California since 2006 where he books regular engagements with his Jazz Tonite Sextet. On Be With Me, Gordy’s second album as leader, he surrounds himself with some of the area’s finest, Alan Pasqua (piano), Chris Colangelo (bass), Ido Meshulam (trombone), Jeff Ellwood (sax), Ron Stout (trumpet, flugelhorn), and Sherry Williams (vocals). Be With Me features six standards and four of Gordy’s compositions.

The sparkling set kicks off with a favorite up-tempo classic, “Topsy,” and later, “Spring Ahead” says something original and distinctive with its upbeat dedication to Chick Corea. Some of the other tracks like “Camouflage” and “Chloe” are more restrained with moments of brilliance, the latter written for Gordy’s granddaughter on her tenth birthday. Entertaining and unique, Be With Me is a marvelous, tasteful session. It also pays tribute to those who have gone before, such as the prolific, accomplished pianist Mulgrew Miller when the band gives us a sparkling rendition of “You and the Night and the Music.” In a more relaxed arrangement, Gordy dedicates Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” to pianist McCoy Tyner who both propelled and anchored John Coltrane’s music in the 1960s.

Gordy’s versatility to play everything from classical to pop earned him a spot working with Joni Mitchell in Boston on her 2001 Both Sides Now tour. He composed the title track, “Be with Me,” based on chord changes to “A Case of You” from Mitchell’s 1971 Blue album, and vocalist Sherry Williams does a fine job expressively singing the touching lyrics of romance and dependency written by Gregg Arthur.  Gordy used piano techniques learned from Boston educator Charlie Banacos to reinvent “My Shining Hour” and similarly, he reimagines Oscar Peterson’s “Wheatland” with solos as short fragments that become a shout chorus for the horns. To close, pop classic “Sunny” again features vocalist Williams whose performance Gordy describes as “Sade meets Aretha.” 

The Matt Gordy Jazz Tonite Sextet’s Be With Me is a very well-done outing, just as immaculate, elegant and emphatic as you would expect from these stellar, experienced musicians. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)