New York native, saxophonist and composer Jon Gordon began playing at the age of ten. Early years of lengthy practice led to solo appearances with the Julius Grossman orchestra, the Goldman Band and the Performing Arts High School Orchestra. Studies at the Manhattan School of Music and with Phil Woods followed, as well as a string of "sitting in" appearances with artists such as Charles McPherson, Doc Cheatham and Mike Stern. Later professional work included time with Red Rodney, Roy Eldridge, Al Grey, Mel Lewis, Doc Cheatham and Larry Goldings, among others. In November of 1996 Gordon won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.
Within Worlds, Gordon’s 11th release as a leader, finds the eclectic and modern harmonically oriented artist working in a number of various small rhythm ensembles. Although this disc was culled from recording studio sessions in 2002, 2005 and 2007, the disc still sounds remarkably universal with respect to recording quality, mixing and mastering levels.
Gordon is best described as a musician working on the fringes of tonality. As a soloist, while he would never be mistaken for a musician coming out of the Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor camp, Gordon none-the-less works in the upper reaches of tonal-chordal implications. His expanded palette serves him well with respect to the musicians he chooses to work with. Guitarist Ben Monder and keyboardists Kevin Hays and Gary Versace all voice their chords in open configurations allowing Gordon maximum freedom within the outer boundaries of tonality. It’s as if the spirit of "downtowners" like Bill Frisell, John Zorn and Dave Douglas works its way through Gordon’s mind and is transfixed into a separate and unique vision.
As a composer Gordon doesn’t compose pieces one will find oneself whistling along with, but they do suit his style and harmonic view. Some, like "Havens" and "Within Worlds" are intricate and longwinded, yet pleasing. Others, like "Visit," aren’t self-contained and require improvisational time and space in order to fulfill their concepts. If there is a problem with the disc it’s the sameness of tempo and continual openness of harmonic voicing throughout that becomes a bit been-there-done-that after a while. While this is not Gordon’s best work, it is still a fine representation of the areas of theoretical improvisational thought he transverses.