Alex Goodman Trio
Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge, Ottawa
Friday, November 14, 2014 – 8 p.m.
This July, Alex Goodman won first prize and the Public's Choice Award at the Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition. He is the first Canadian to ever win this competition.
Listeners at the Options Jazz Lounge on Friday could hear that technical skill – and considerable composing chops as well – when Goodman's trio appeared there last Friday. In three sets over three hours, the trio combined Goodman's originals and less-common standards for a fast-moving and enjoyable evening.
Goodman has released four albums, the latest being a series of solo guitar études released in 2013; his previous album, Bridges, was a quintet release and a JUNO nominee in 2011 for contemporary jazz album of the year.
For this show, he teamed up with a different trio than on his recordings: Fabio Ragnelli on drums and Rick Rosato on double bass. All three have considerable experience in the Canadian scene (Goodman and Ragnelli until recently in Toronto, and Rosato in Montreal), but currently live in New York City.
They opened with a Cole Porter number, “From this moment on”, fast and swinging with extended improvisation on guitar and bass. Goodman noted later that Porter was one of his favourite composers, and included another of his songs, “You Do Something to Me”, which also had lots of room for exploration while retaining the sweetness of the melody.
But the numbers I really enjoyed were Goodman's originals. In the first set, the trio played a brand-new composition, “Departure”. It was a propulsive and highly-accented number, with blazing-quick pointillist notes on guitar and a strong groove at the end, which nicely woke up the audience. He followed that with the oldest piece he still plays, “Vancouver Rain”, which had only improved with age. Thoughtful and evocative, it also featured Ragnelli on cymbals conjuring the sound of the raindrops.
The second set was all standards. Local bassist Alex Bilodeau sat in for a quiet, emotion-laden version of “Blue and Green”. In contrast, Charlie Parker's “Relaxin' at Camarillo” was a more bopping ensemble piece, to which Goodman added sequences of interrupted chords and fast series of riffs.
Their last set included “Victor's Piano Solo” by Danny Elfman from the film The Corpse Bride. Goodman reinterpreted the song on guitar – initially as a simple riff and then let it coalesce into a gentle melody, which included a warm-toned bass/guitar duet.
The trio ended the night with another Goodman original, “Optimist”: a fast, fluid piece whose rhythms changed frequently. A highlight of the night, it featured Ragnelli playing intense but consistently varied drums, including a carefully subdued solo with brushes.
Earlier this month, Goodman returned to Montreux to perform with the Charles Lloyd Quartet and the Lee Ritenour Quartet. This week, he's taking his trio on a short tour of Belgium and Holland, after playing Ottawa, Montreal, and then Toronto over the weekend.
It will be interesting to hear the result of those experiences in future CDs and concerts. While I really enjoyed hearing how Goodman used his deep fluency on the guitar in service of the music, I thought the trio was still a bit stiff together in places. Rosato and Ragnelli were following their charts closely in playing many of Goodman's originals, A bit more experience with that material might add an extra level of ease and allow the kind of interesting explorations that all three seem more than capable of.
– Alayne McGregor