Live performance reviews
with JJ Johnson's 1988 Quintet
Louisville Courier-Journal, Nov 7, 1987, Gene Williams
From an Leonard Feather interview with JJ
El Pais (Spain), 1992
David N. Baker
Focus on the Arts, Highland Park High School, IL, 1989
"Imagine hanging out late one night at a smoke-stained jazz club like the Green Mill, listening to proficient players enjoying a fun jam session. That's the intoxicating effect of Carswell, the latest 10-tune recording from sax-man Tom Gullion. While standout numbers include the energetically improvisational "Monkey's Tale" and the evocative electric piano and flute of "Right On Time," every cut is consistently captivating." by Jeff Berkwits
Kevin Lynch voted Carswell as one of the top 10 new releases of 2009!
EXCERPT: "...one of the most consistently strong jazz records to come out this year." by Pico
EXCERPT: "In Carswell, not only does Tom Gullion play one sophisticated, angular, and inspired trad-n-fusiony sax (and occasional flute), he also gives his crew a hell of a lot of latitude to roust the hell out of each cut." by Mark S. Tucker
EXCERPT: "A solid, muscular work from another hot player that's simply bubbling under and getting hotter all the time."
EXCERPT: "What struck me about most of the compositions here is that it seemed like traditional paths were avoided: solos might occur just about anywhere. None of the usual head/chorus/solos/head pattern. It's that kind of (lack of) structure that can make an album seem fresh on repeated listens." by Mark Saleski
EXCERPT: "It's a good album! The jazz is not experimental, there's nothing difficult here for the listener, just some fine playing on a variety of instruments, delivering some fine tunes and rhythms in a variety of timbral soundscapes. It's that wonderful thing: the serene swan gliding along the lake, its webbed feet paddling furiously unseen below the water - it sounds great, it sounds easy, its beauty belies the effort and the skill of the composer and the players but the resulting music will be a joy to many." by Alex Torres
Greens and Blues reviews
http://www.hifiplus.com (August/September Issue)
8 out of 10 "bars" for music quality; 8.5 out of 10 "bars for sound quality. Hi-fi+ uses a 10-section bar graph to rate both the quality of the music and quality of the recording.
This album is a tribute to Chicago and takes its title from the elevated trains that criss-cross the city. In fact, all the music was composed or arranged whilst Gullion was riding these trains. That's not to say that the music here is a literal transcript of that but the experience, the myriad distractions of the city passing by the windows of the train, helped Gullion to focus and more clearly set down his ideas.
Recorded by Ken Christianson using a pair of vintage AKG mikes direct to two-track over an intensive two day session, Gullion (tenor and soprano sax) is joined here by John Moulder (guitar), Steve Gillis (drums), and Rob Amster (bass). The spacious, warm acousting (as in Gullion's first release Cat's Cradle naimcd029), of the Union Church, Hinsdale is equally as evident as in that session, the whole feeling very natural and 'live.'
Kicking off with Coltrane's 'Lonnie's Lament' the quality of the band is immediately evident. Driven hard by Gillis' percussion Gullion really takes flight here, as does Moulder with a particularly nimble solo. There are no weak tracks here, but I particularly like the closing number 'Lament' dedicated to its composer, J.J. Johnson. It's a truly beautiful piece.
This is a strong, assured set from a very talented quartet. The recording does it full justice sounding unforced, full-bodied and very natural.
It's a delight to review an album that is what it is: straightforward, good, professional jazz. Tom Gullion started playing sax at the age of ten, and after university in Indiana to finish his degree, moved to Spain, where he played with several groups and recorded with the band, Clunia. He returned to the USA in 1995, recording his first solo album, Cat's Cradle in 1999. Greens And Blues is recorded entirely live in Chicago from a pair of vintage mikes onto two-track tape. A tribute to Chicago, all Gullion's own compositions on this album were either composed or arranged riding in the city's Blue and Green trains. Accompanied by Steve Gillis on drums and Rob Amstar on bass, Guillion's sinuous sax weaves melodically around the excellent guitar work of John Moulder. This is a fine release of inventive, imaginative, yet traditionally informed jazz.
Cat's Cradle Reviews
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/artists/TGullion.htm by Joel Roberts
On his new album on Britain's Naim label, Chicago tenor saxophonist Tom Gullion exemplifies one of the qualities too often missing among younger jazz musicians: patience. This is a supremely self-assured, unhurried effort emphasizing mood, tone and timing over mere technique and speed.
Gullion, who played in J.J. Johnson's band in his early twenties, has a rich, gentle tenor sound that owes a lot to middle-period Coltrane; which is to say he plays loping, harmonically complex lines that remain highly melodic. Like Coltrane, too, his compositions are thoughtful, even, dare I say, spiritual journeys to exotic musical realms. There's a Spanish tinge to several tunes here, perhaps owing to Gullion's having lived several years in Spain. Throw in a solid cover of Trane's "Wise One," and it's clear where Gullion's head is.
There's also terrific interplay and empathy between Gullion and his estimable bandmates John Moulder on guitar, bassist Rob Amster (from vocalist Kurt Elling's band) and heavyweight drummer Paul Wertico (from Pat Metheny's group). This is a band squarely on the same page and the results are very satisfying.
www.theskanner.com by Dick Bogel
Do not let the unfamiliar names deter you from giving this five-star Naim release a fair hearing.
Tenorist Tom Gullion's work makes for new believers, of which I am one. He is blessed with tones so rich and full, they exceed those attributed to those with more familiar names.
Gullion can write good stuff, too, as his five compositions attest to. His treatment of John Coltrane's "Wise One" makes me want to jump up and shout, "More, more!"
Fortunately, there is more. The very next track, Gullion's own tune "Aeolia," maintains the mood struck by "Wise One."
His support is there throughout and is supplied by guitarist John Moulder, bassist Rob Amster and drummer Paul Wertico. It is such a pleasure to hear in their music the respect each has for the other.
www.allmusic.com by Michael G. Nastos
Tenor/soprano saxophonist Gullion recorded his debut CD with guitarist John Moulder, bassist Rob Amster, and drummer Paul Wertico, all fine players in their own right. The combination produces modern contemporary jazz with fusiony edges and a progressive asethetic. Gullion himself is of the Michael Brecker-Bob Mitnzer-Bobby Malach strain influenced by John Coltrane. The most obvious reference is Gullion's tenor-led, beautiful interpretation of "Wise One," which is less rubato and employs more pulse than the original. "Ting Jing" sounds like a sped-up "Equinox." The lone standard "Invitation" is nicely rearranged, with Moulder's four-chord repetition and stop-start phrasings providing a base for Gullion's soprano. Amster's evident bass support in an easy paced setting for the Gullion written piece "Aeolia" shows a spiritual and soulful side of the tenorman. The title track is a tenor-drummer workout, "The Presence of Sincerity," and "Pete & Repeat" is a good original that could be a showstopper in a stretched-out, live club context. The CD is a little short at 45 minutes, but chock full of up-to-date music that bodes well for Gullion's future projects and appearances. Recommended.
www.allmusic.com by Steve Loewy
With so many young tenor saxophonists graduating from jazz college programs and easily able to negotiate the changes, it is increasingly difficult for players to distinguish themselves. Tom Guillon is only partially successful in doing so, but, to his credit, he appears to recognize his strengths as a soloist and composer, and he focuses on them to good effect. Adding an electric guitar (John Moulder) to the front line, while dropping the piano in the rhythm section, permits greater harmonic freedom, of which Guillon takes advantage. The saxophonist is comfortable running through the chords, but he is best at carefully constructing solos of sometimes considerable depth. This recording should be a precursor of what can be expected as Guillon continues to develop his individual voice and style.
Downbeat May 2000 - 3 Stars by Will Smith
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Tom Gullion offers solid, quietly intense music but, like too many of the younger horn players of the day, has not found his voice, employing a sound rooted in John Coltrane, particularly the stylistic branch respresented by Michael Brecker.
A mostly mellow player with a somewhat introverted feel, Gullion occasionally seems to rush things a bit, especially on the first half of the album.
Because of the instrumentation, particularly guitarist John Moulder's Scofield-Metheny qualities, the first three tracks have the feel of Metheny's ECM date '80/'81 with Brecker and Dewey Redman. The weakest track, "Invitation," finds Gullion in his lone outing on soprano, exhibiting a tone that is a bit pinched and thin.
The album's second half hints at better things. Gullion pays homage to Coltrane with the latter's "Wise One" and comes up with a spiritual edge that is most true to his stylistic essence. On "Aeolia," Gullion and Moulder get into some inspired collective interplay that works very nicely. And the duet title track with the leader and Wertico is strong, although it lacks the powerful expression exhibited by Coltrane and Rashied Ali on their efforts recorded late in the tenorist's life.
Moulder is a fairly searing guitarist, but his sound seems somewhat oriented towards the fusion realms. Bassist Rob Amster is unobtrusively supportive and Wertico take care of business. Taped at a Hinsdale, Ill., church in mid-1997, the recording has a live quality but sounds a bit cramped.
http://g21.net/ps45.html by Bob Powers
Last week, while in the throes of a nasty sinus assault, I received a polite letter from Chicagoan Tom Gullion, who plays tenor and alto saxes. He wanted to alert me to his first CD, "Cats Cradle" (Naim Audio). I played the CD and liked it. If you have any interest at all in saxophone well-played, this disc deserves a place on your CD shelves.
Neil Tesser, author of "The Playboy Guide to Jazz," wrote the album notes and he's quite effusive about Gullions talents, calling it "a celebration of the power of melody in a guitar quartet setting." Five of the seven tracks are Gullion originals. Theres also a lovely arraignment of "Invitation" and a splendid rendering of John Coltrane's "Wise One." Gullions own tunes are never less than excellent. My favorite is the playful "Ting Jing."
Providing backing are John Moulder on guitar, Rob Amster on bass, and Paul Wertico on drums. Their support is always good, often exceptional.
Welcome, Tom Gullion, to the Big Time. Your first album deserves it.
Spinning Dog review http://www.spinningdogrecords.com/cacrtomgu.html
Cats Cradle is Chicago based saxophanist Tom Gullion's debut CD for The Naim Label and is a celebration of the power of medley in a guitar quartet setting. Together with guitarist John Moulder, bassist Rob Amster and renowned Pat Metheny Group percussionist Paul Wertico, Gullion's sax brings an infectious enthusiasm to a set of originals and standards.
Cat's Cradle brings together Gullion's tunes and instruments not only with three of the busiest and also best known Chicagoan musicians, but also with the recording skills of Ken Christianson who has, once again for The Naim Label, captured a live performance rather than simply recorded a band.
While aspects of Gullion's career bring to mind that of Sonny Rollins - like Rollins, Gullion spent some time honing his abilities away from public performance - his sound and style owe more to John Coltrane and Michael Brecker. Gullion's rich ripe tone and sculptor's way with melody are reminiscent of middle period Coltrane. And Brecker, who perhaps founded the contemporary school of jazz saxophone, was an earlier student of Gullion's tutor, David Baker at Indiana University.
This astonishing album is a great showcase for the young saxophanist; full of music "worth trusting to musicians like these?" Neil Tesser
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