After five years in New York City, Alex Goodman has not only established himself as a rising star and significant voice in the jazz mecca, but has gathered together a gifted group of peers, each of whom are quickly forging a path forward for the music's next generation. The guitarist/composer began his career in his native Toronto, becoming an integral part of the scene in the Canadian city and receiving a wealth of accolades across the country. The CBC News hailed him as having "taken the jazz world by storm [and] attained a level of fame and success in the insular jazz community that few other Canadian guitarists can match." In 2014 he received international recognition winning both first prize and the Public's Choice Award at the Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition in Switzerland.
Goodman's last release, Border Crossing, documented his initial reactions to his move to NYC and his acclimation to a new setting. With his fifth album, Second Act, Goodman looks poised to make a similar impact in his adopted home, revealing a vision shaped by the Big Apple's thriving modern jazz scene and by the dedicated and accomplished group of musicians with which he has surrounded himself.
As the title implies, Second Act (out June 23rd via Lyte records) signals a new beginning as much as the closing of a particular period, and the album's eleven striking compositions more than live up to that promise. A stunning departure from the chamber-jazz style of Border Crossing, the music on Second Act balances inventive composition and thrilling improvisation, with pieces that boast exhilarating, fluidly angular melodies and intricate architecture but which spark electrifying spontaneity from Goodman and his deft quintet.
"Second Act is my first CD comprised of a New York City based band that was assembled around the member's similar artistic vision," Goodman says. "All the music was written while I've been living here, and it all relates to the things that happen in the life of a musician living in New York City."
Given the agility of the playing and the depth of communication throughout the album, Second Act features a band that has obviously spent a good deal of time getting to know each other's sonic personalities. Goodman is joined by four peers who have also come to the city from a variety of disparate places and experiences: saxophonist Matt Marantz (Texas), pianist Eden Ladin (born in NYC but raised in Israel), bassist Rick Rosato (Montreal) and drummer Jimmy Macbride (Connecticut). They've each formed relationships with such envelope-pushing artists as Avishai Cohen, Will Vinson, Lage Lund, Nir Felder, Terence Blanchard and Jonathan Batiste, while working together in a variety of settings, spurring each other onward into exciting new territory.
"Everybody in the band is on the same wavelength both musically and personally," Goodman says. "I think we all share the same creative mindset, where everybody has a very firm foundation in the tradition of jazz but is also very creative and adventurous. Each one of them brings some of their own personality and identity to their playing, which I really value, but they're also very well rounded musicians who can do a lot of different things."
To enhance the music's already wide-ranging palette, Goodman added layers of human voice to the pieces after the initial studio sessions, writing new parts for the wordless vocals that interweave with not only his originally written material, but also the band's in-the-moment interpretations. He enlisted a talented pair of fellow Canadians to sing the parts: Felicity Williams, a longtime collaborator who also appears in a similar role on Border Crossing, and Alex Samaras, a key contributor to the Canadian jazz and new music scenes. Goodman often layers the two vocalists' contributions, offering him the option of employing sinuous lines or lush, swelling choruses as desired.
Rosato's knotty bass initiates "Questions," the album's brisk opening track, highlighted by the sauntering swing of Ladin's piano solo. "The First Break" is fueled by Macbride's intense, mechanistic rhythms and the composer's serrated guitar, while the infectious "Departure" gradually accumulates from a tenuous solo intro passed off from Goodman to Ladin, which finally unfurl into the piece's memorable melody. The leader's ringing, resonant solo playing provides an extended overture for the exultant "Losing Cool," a showcase for Goodman's alluring vocal writing.
"Empty" erupts from the outset with an overdriven rock urgency, contrasted by the mysterious, ethereal hush of "Heightened," before that piece gives way to sheer, joyous swing. Marantz wends a boldly eloquent solo through the bustling "Sharon," while Goodman's fleet fretwork and Ladin's burbling Rhodes intermingle rapturously on "Welcome To New York." "Apprehension" adds soaring vocals to an already lyrical melodic cascade before "Acrobat" closes the album on a wistful, free-floating note.
The bliss and brusqueness that Goodman balances throughout Second Act are an apt portrait of life in the jazz metropolis, reflecting what the composer calls "a tension that exists in living and being a musician in New York City. It's difficult and crazy and sometimes out of control, but at the same time there's something fulfilling and exuberant about it. It's so inspiring to see the level at which everything is happening all around you. Just to be a part of that has been really powerful and life affirming."
Alex Goodman has been hailed as "a definite musical voice" (Guitar International), "a jazz phenomenon the world over" (Birmingham Times), "genius" (La Presse) and "among the best in jazz today" (Improvijazzation). The Toronto native released his leader debut, Roots, in 2007 and his 2013 album Bridges was nominated for a JUNO, Canada's highest musical honor, as Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year.
Since moving to New York in 2012, Goodman has recorded with artists including John Patitucci, Dick Oatts, Kevin Hays and Rich Perry and performed with a variety of notable jazz musicians including Charles Lloyd, Eric Harland, Ari Hoenig, Jane Monheit, Ben Wolfe, John Ellis and John Riley. He was awarded a 2013 ASCAP Herb Alpert Jazz Composer Award, has written a book of solo guitar etudes and has composed extensively for jazz groups, chamber groups, orchestras, big bands, and string quartets. Along with performing at top New York City jazz clubs such as Smalls, the Appel Room at Lincoln Center, Mezzrow, 55 Bar, Smoke, National Sawdust and Cornelia Street Cafe, Goodman has toured the world, playing prestigious international venues such as the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Massey Hall in Toronto and Club Unterfahrt in Munich. He's also performed on the stages of prestigious international jazz festivals including Winter Jazz Fest in New York, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival. He is a graduate of the Master's Program in Jazz Performance at the Manhattan School of Music.