Last year, composer, bassist, and all around musician’s musician, Gerald Stockton released his first solo album, the aptly-titled My Gentle Breeze. Now he’s back with his second album, A New Dawn, an even more ambitious melding of styles that reveals his deep roots as a jazz musician whose experience extends to composing and orchestrating for radio and television. Clocking in at over 76 minutes, the album makes room for generous helpings of jazz-informed pop, 1970s-style progressive rock, jazz fusion, and even nostalgic ballads. The outstanding musicians are gifted with extra leg room to show off their considerable chops. Throughout, Dan Jordan is a star on woodwinds with a cool and refreshing mid-century style.
The title track, A New Dawn, is a beautifully meditative tune recalling my memories of South Africa, the soft tangerine glow of the sun and good evening roars of lions in the distance. I was merely a visitor. Gerald grew up in South Africa, emigrating to America in 1979 to study at the University of North Texas. From the cities to the townships, South Africa is rich in jazz history with many potential stars laboring in relative obscurity. The instrumentation sets the tune’s mood. Dan Jordan’s lilting alto flute, backed up by Gerald’s gentle piano comping, contrasts in range and texture with Syndon Bundens’ evocative cello.
Doppler Effect jolts my contemplative state with a gust of upbeat jazz fusion, guest starring Steve Wiest, Gerald’s long-time friend and collaborator and current bandmate in Vinyl Hampton. Steve delivers his trademark stretched-out and funky Pankowian-style on trombone. Show Me The Way harkens back to the progressive rock tradition of the 1970s, also recalling the syncopated rhythms of African pop.
Midnight shows off the considerable improvisational chops of the players in a traditional jazz combo setting, Dan’s tenor laying down the main melody. Steve Luciano delivers a clean and bright guitar solo. Feeling From My Heart features a wispy-toned and melodic flute solo while Memories of Tomorrow and Sky Train would fit in on “smooth jazz” formatted stations and streaming services.
Without irony, Gerald and friends travel back in time to the era of the sentimental torch ballad. Time Passes By is straight out of monochrome Hollywood romanticism. Another Perfect Day, in the bossa-nova style with Gerald and his wife Avryl on vocals, advances to the technicolor era of 1960s European pop. Their vocals and harmonies are breezy and beautifully, the perfect companion to lounging at the beach or backyard.
Empyrean, is the most adventurous and eclectic composition of the album, a suite-like composition with a pastiche of styles, infusing influences from diverse musical cultures. Take out your passports. The G-train travels express to both Chicago and East Asia! Featured on the first movement is a teen-aged cello star, Matthew Wiest, a young man who practices diligently and is destined to make his mark in music. Empyrean is rocked up by another son, with Will Stockton of the indie rock band Warm Soda on drums! Centrifuge is also a daring track, combining an organic horn section augmented by synth horns, a creative meeting of the production styles of the 70s and 80s.
In totality, A New Dawn, is impossible to sum up. Gerald has shown what musicians can accomplish in this new era, freed from expectations from record company executives, commercial considerations, or confining genres. In the tradition of modern art on jazz album covers, the very hip urban psychedelic cover art is from a painting by Marianne Davidow. Purchase A New Dawn at CD Baby.