While proving that he is one of the best trombonists on the scene today, Wycliffe Gordon also revealed that he is the Rich Little of his instrument Monday at the Terrace Theater.
Performing with the Billy Taylor Trio for the "Jazz at the Kennedy Center" radio program, Gordon approximated a remarkably wide range of sounds on his trombone with an ease that belied the unwieldy instrument.
On "It Don't Mean a Thing," Gordon played with a mute and plunger, growling and smearing his way through the melody, even making his trombone repeatedly laugh like a jolly old man. Bassist Chip Jackson, seemingly inspired by Gordon's playfulness, gave a raucous bass solo filled with chances and difficult passages.
Taylor and Gordon then dueted on "Amazing Grace," and the trombonist transformed his instrument into the voice of a gospel singer filled with soulful vibrato.
Being a radio show, there were discussions of the music and some demonstrations, including Gordon imitating a didgeridoo (then playing one) and illustrating multiphonics. He put both effects to use on a spirited "Mood Indigo."
"What?!," "Back Home," "Stella by Starlight," "Stardust" and "Rhythm Cone" followed, with drummer Winard Harper demonstrating throughout that not only is he a great showman, he's also an awe-inspiring percussionist. His showcase came on a breakneck version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" in which he traded intense fours with the band.