Gordon James – Come On Down | Album Review

Gordon James featuring Carol Selick – Come On Down

Caress Music  


CD: 11 Songs, 50 Minutes  

Styles: Horn Blues, NOLA Blues, Jazz

“Jambalaya and crawfish pie and fillet gumbo…” Blues fans far and wide will be in the mood for such soul food once they listen to Come On Down, the latest release from New Jersey’s Gordon James. It features eleven songs and fifty minutes of piping-hot New Orleans fare, “jazz and blues and reggae too,” as the opener/title track promises. Gordon’s vocals are reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s: smooth and understated, with a slight patter style. Those of his wife, singer/songwriter Carol Selick, are clear and melodious with sly undertones on such songs as “Cuddle Queen” and “The First Time I Saw You.” Purists might deem this a jazz album rather than a blues album, but they wouldn’t be 100% right. Besides, it’s worth several replays in one’s stereo or boombox.

Gordon James is not only a performer, but a composer, arranger, producer and recording artist earning critical acclaim from prestigious jazz magazines and websites. Indeed, he has released five CD’s in the smooth jazz category. A graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Hartt College of Music, James has performed with The Soul Survivors, Johnny Guitar Watson, saxophonists Eric Kloss and Paul Winter, and cellist David Darling. He’s also performed with and opened for Pieces of a Dream, Chuck Loeb, Bob Baldwin, Angela Bofil, Roy Ayres, Walter Beasley and Alex Bugnon.

Gordon’s band consists of our leading man on lead vocals, trumpet and flugelhorn; Carol Selick on female vocals; Mike DiLorenzo on piano and B3 organ; Mike Hogan on guitar; Mark Peterson on bass and Gary Dates on drums. Additional musicians include Ron Thompson on piano; Don Shaner on trombone; Greg Grispart on tenor sax and clarinet; Doug DeHays on tenor sax; Steve Jankowski on trombone; Layonne Holmes on background vocals, and Rob Paparozzi on vocals and harmonica.

Starting things off is “Come On Down,” being everything a leading song ought to be: catchy, danceable, and a certifiable earworm. The instrumentation is perfectly blended as well. Check out those smoking solos in the middle, one after the other, making one’s ears ring with pleasure. “The First Time I Saw You,” a swinging ballad, is Carol Selick’s grand entrance. She and her hubby may have differing stories of when they met, but the result is the same – true love. Pure blues fans will savor Mike Hogan’s SRV-style electric intro on “She’s My Barbeque,” as well as his saucy fretwork. “Home on the Bayou” possesses the most magnificent trumpet passages that yours truly has heard this year. Hauntingly beautiful, they’ll make listeners shiver.

“When You Come to New Orleans” and “Cuddle Queen” are short pieces, but they sure are sweet. The first is a ragtime homage, bringing the Twenties roaring back. Don Shaner and Greg Grispart play terrific trombone and clarinet, respectively. The second is a sultry torch song by Selick, where Mike DiLorenzo’s nightclub-style piano takes center stage.  Next are the up-tempo “Gumbo Ya Ya” – which dares one NOT to sing along with the chorus – the tongue-in-cheek “Weary Women’s Blues,” Chris Kenner’s “I Like It Like That,” and a sock in the gut to the media’s daily scoop with “Bad News Blues.” The penultimate track, “Have A Little Gratitude,” has enough positive power to dissipate a hurricane. Last but not least comes the band’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” and wonderful it is, freshening Ray Charles’ hit with reggae fizz.

Come On Down is a Cajun feast: satisfying and spicy, with just the right amount of sweet dessert!

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