The wee small hours are when the music turns romantic, when the tempo slows and the tenor man speaks in subtones, smooches and slurs.
It’s melody time at its most atmospheric, and the time when the breathy aura of past tenor men like Gene Ammons, Arnett Cobb, Ike Quebec and Ben Webster materializes.
With “In the Wee Small Hours” (Delmark) “Sax” Gordon Beadle recreates the scene, eschewing his more familiar honking and walking-the-bar blues vocabulary for a spell.
The album was recorded in Torino, Italy, with organist Alberto Marsico and drummer Allessandro Minetto.
A medium-tempo “The Glory of Love” opens the album with Marsico building to a swinging block-chorded climax after delivering fleet, stuttering runs en route. Gordon solos with a vocalized push to each note.
On the title track the saxophonist takes his time and offers a soulful, bent-note melodic exposition worthy of Ammons. “My Old Flame,” “Blue and Sentimental” and “Easy Living” follow in similar fashion.
The slinky Latin groove of “Whatever Lola Wants” gives Gordon time to heat things up beyond the smoldering aura of the ballads.
Likewise, his original, “Big Top,” affords the trio room to stretch out on a medium-uptempo blues. “Bubbles,” another swinger, closes the album.
For readers unfamiliar with Gordon, note that his credits include stints with bluesmen Johnny Heartsman, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, Duke Robillard, Roomful of Blues, Solomon Burke and numerous others.
For a taste of Gordon’s earlier wild blues side, check out his “You Knock Me Out” (Bullseye) – if you can find it – recorded in 1999.
Correspondent Owen Cordle