Bay Area musician Jason Bodlovich leads a stellar quintet featuring legendary jazz bassist Ray Brown on "Blues For Dexter"-A Tribute To Saxophonist Dexter Gordon. The Quintet features Bodlovich on drums, Ray Brown on bass, pianist Larry Fuller, tenor saxophonist Steve Wolfe and Jay Thomas performing trumpet, flugelhorn and tenor sax. Dexter Gordon was an influential tenor sax player specializing in the jazz style of be bop. Gordon recorded and performed consistently throughout his 40+ year career with numerous albums under his name and as a sideman. "Blues For Dexter" features songs performed by Gordon throughout the different stages of his career. The Quintet explores hard-driving be bop styles as well as Latin, swing and groove-based jazz. Wolfe and Thomas recreate Gordon's relentless dual horn battles on tracks Blues Up And Down and The Duel with Bodlovich, Brown and Fuller providing the driving rhythm section. Ray Brown is one of the most celebrated bassist in the jazz world and is featured throughout this recording. "Blues For Dexter" was recorded in 2001 and is now re-released for 2014. The Jason Bodlovich Quintet pays a long overdue tribute to the legacy of Dexter Gordon on "Blues For Dexter".
On Blues For Dexter
Reviewed by: Glenn Astarita
“Recorded in 2001, this sprightly tribute to tenor sax great, Dexter Gordon pronounces a rather all-encompassing vibe, through the viewpoint of drummer Jason Bodlovich. Featuring the late bassist Ray Brown, this quintet performs four Gordon originals and other works. But the gist of the matter pertains to the ensemble’s mode of capturing Gordon’s distinctive aura, complete with a relaxed sense of urgency, performed at various tempos. Bodlovich is a fine young drummer, whereas trumpeter Jay Thomas doubles on tenor sax for a few energetic exchanges with tenorist, Steve Wolfe. More often than not, the musicians use Gordon’s arrangements as foundations for artistic expression, yet they predominately abide by a rock solid game plan, via these pumping, hard-bop showcases. Occasionally, Wolfe and Thomas toss in a few quotes or stylistic remembrances of Gordon’s signature sound and style, but that is to be expected. Ultimately, the drummer and his musical associates provide a richly thematic, and resonantly enacted tribute to the late saxophonist.”
On Blues for Dexter
Review Date: January 2004
Man, I’ll tell you what, if some guy called me and said, “Hey, I’m doing a Dexter Gordon tribute album and I want you to be the tenor player,” I would at the very least gulp real hard before saying yes. The very hard-swinging young drummer Jason Bodlovich apparently put Steve Wolfe and Jay Thomas in that position when preparing his project, Blues for Dexter (Moonrise), and I feel for both of them, because it’s an almost no-win situation. I say almost, because both men do a pretty darn good job on a set of tunes dedicated to, written by, or otherwise associated with Gordon. Although his sound is big and dark, Wolfe plays almost nothing like Dex. Nor does Thomas (who also burns on flugelhorn and trumpet); his sound and manner of phrasing is considerably lighter. No matter, since both inject their solos with sufficient energy, intelligence, and –especially in Thomas’ case–individuality to make a go of such old hard-bop chestnuts as “Catalonian Nights” and “Blues Up and Down.”
Review by Chris Kelsey
On Blues For Dexter
“Long Tall Dexter was synonymous with grace, verve and eloquence when he lifted his horn and, of course, he was also a survivor who managed to carry on and delight jazz lovers despite various setbacks throughout his career. It has been claimed that he created an authentic bebop style on the tenor, having learned from Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet and Charlie Parker along the way. And here that legacy is being kept alive by this drummer-led quintet. They have chosen tunes from different stages of his output, ranging from the 1940s with the oft-performed classic battle, ‘The Duel’, featuring Steve Wolfe’s tenor and Jay Thomas on trumpet. These two dig into the chase and remind me of how exhilarating such trading of licks could be, especially when in this case the bass of Ray Brown is in pursuit. The spirit of some of those early recordings is definitely present here and it’s welcome. Brown also makes his presence felt on Bodlovich’s own homage, the only original on the album. Together with the drummer he struts through ‘Blues For Dexter’ with all the ?lan associated with a Gordon solo. And it’s the bass man who propels the opening tune, ‘The Panther’, through its lithe and supple workout, supporting tenor and trumpet while still making his own irreducibly sturdy heart the centre of the whole track. I’ve always been a sucker for the more tender, romantic bent that the tenorman often pursued so I’m grateful for their version of ‘Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry’. Wolfe, to an extent, goes for the kind of tone Gordon captured in 1962 on the Blue Note recording ‘Go!’. It’s reflective but energized, nodding back towards those bebop roots whilst embracing the ballad form. ‘Cheesecake’ also appeared on that album and displays more bebop leanings with Thomas singing clear, shapely lines over the tireless precision of Brown and Bodlovich. Some way away from that is the measured cool of Donald Byrd’s ‘Tanya’. Wolfe, again, is masterful in building, from a fairly ordinary theme, a solo that is tough and tender, smooth and sinuous. Larry Fuller’s piano on his solo is paired with some of Brown’s fulsome bass tone, and the two are entirely suited. As a brief resume of some of Gordon’s work it should be welcomed. It honestly captures some of the essence of the man and his music and it sounds as though these guys love him. I’m certain he would have approved.”
review by Paul Donnelly
All About Jazz
On Blues For Dexter
“The second release by drummer Jason Bodlovich captures the essence of the great jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordon with a pervasive blues and swing mood. Bodlovich leads an exciting group of musicians who faithfully interpret these still-thriving standards. The two factors which help make this an enjoyable listen are simply the music and the musicians. In addition to bassist Ray Brown and trumpeter Jay Thomas, the band consists of the lesser known but equally talented Steve Wolfe on tenor sax, and Larry Fuller on piano. The musicians clearly gel together as one with an emphasis on the music that is conveyed with high enthusiasm.
The recording includes selections by (among others) Dexter Gordon, Donald Byrd, and the Gershwins. It begins with the Dexter Gordon composition “The Panther,” with the tight rhythm section of Bodlovich and Ray Brown supporting the melody. Gordon’s classic “Cheesecake” gets a swing workout as the band blows confidently in high fashion. Bodlovich shows flair and precision as he guides the band with impeccable drumming. Good rhythm, not soloing, is his primary goal, as each selection is filled with crisp rim shots, flowering cymbals, and vivid rhythms. The horn section is aggressive on “The Duel” as Wolfe and Thomas trade eager solos against the hard bop rhythm. The band changes moods on the serene “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry,” which features a nice piano solo by Fuller.
It’s about the heart and the soul of the blues as the group expounds the message clearly on Donald Byrd’s soulful “Tanya.”
Where Bodlovich’s rhythms create the heartbeat, the great Ray Brown’s stellar fretwork is definitely the soul of the recording. His bass walks, moves, and grooves on each of the selections. One of the highlights features an impressive bass and drum duet. With all around good sounds and the correct mindset, Blues For Dexter could temporality transport you back to 52nd Street.”
Review by Mark F. Turner
On Blues For Dexter
“Drummer Jason Bodlovich’s “Blues For Dexter” is a great tribute album to the late saxophone giant Dexter Gordon. One of the faults that I find with many tribute albums is that the players seem more intent on showing off their chops and playing every lick they know than truly recording a tribute to the artist they presume to be honoring. “Blues For Dexter” has, thankfully, avoided that pitfall. Joined by Steve Wolfe on tenor sax, Larry Fuller on piano, Jay Thomas on trumpet, flugelhorn & tenor sax and the legendary Ray Brown on bass, Bodlovich has managed to record a CD that truly captures the essence that was Dexter Gordon. Neither Wolfe nor Thomas stoop to trying to copy Dex’s solos or ‘ape’ his sound, yet they really bring to life the music that defined Gordon’s style and his impact on jazz as one of the preeminent saxophonists of the 50’s and 60’s.
You’ve also got to hand it to Bodlovich for putting together such a top-notch band. They play very cohesively together, with everyone contributing great solos. It’s especially nice to hear Thomas doubling on brass and woodwind â€“ he’s one of the very few musicians playing today that can pull that off and sound excellent on both. The band tackles four Gordon originals (The Panther, Cheesecake, Catalonian Nights and The Duel) and a couple of Gordon signature standards (Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, Tanya and Blues Up And Down). The tunes follow Dex from the late 1940’s thru 1970, allowing for quite a bit of variety.”
On Blues For Dexter
“Blues for Dexter is drummer Jason Bodlovich’s second release as a drummer (he also plays guitar) and serves as a tribute to Dexter Gordon. The real ace here is the presence of the great Ray Brown, who is the bedrock throughout(his bass is mixed out in front to further emphasize his significance) The ten tracks constitute a well-executed Bop session that at times might be referred to as a “blowing session.” Ultimately, such an atmosphere corresponds well with the original performances of these tunes. Many, but not all, of the compositions appearing here are those written or associated with Gordon, including the indefatigable “Cheesecake” as well as one Bodlovich original “Blues For Dexter.” Bodlovich energetically swings throughout.
The session begins with “The Panther,” a bouncy, boogaloo rhythm that really chugs along courtesy of Ray Brown’s bass and Bodlovich’s steady tom accents. Tenor saxophonist Steve Wolfe sounds as if he is obviously influenced by Gordon, but displays a gruffness that adds to the funk of this tune. “Cheesecake” makes it’s mandatory appearance and features a particularly fluid solo by Jay Thomas. Thomas switches from trumpet to tenor on two tracks, the Latin-flavored “Catalonian Nights” and Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt burner, “Blues Up and Down” perhaps in an attempt to spur on a tenor battle. Thomas’ sound is lighter “heard on the left side as best as I can decipher” and thus contrasts nicely with Wolfe’s huskier conception. Interestingly enough, Gordon’s great December 1947 encounter with Teddy Edwards, “The Duel”, is not re-created as a tenor vs. tenor showdown, but rather Thomas sticks with the trumpet. Of note is that
Ray Brown is simply outstanding here, showing why he is one of Jazz’s greatest musicians and that he remained vital even in his final days. This is a solid Bop session featuring plenty of zestful interplay for fans of this genre.”
Review by Jay Collins