The Now Aaron Goldberg
- 1Trocando em Miudos06:47
- 3The Wind In The Night05:02
- 6Triste Baía da Guanabara04:55
- 7Background Music02:48
- 9One's a Crowd06:16
- 10One Life08:00
Info for The Now
Hailed by Down Beat magazine for his “quick-witted harmonic reflexes, fluid command of line and cut-to-the-chase sense of narrative logic,” Aaron Goldberg has made his name as one of jazz’s most compelling pianists, both as a bandleader and frequent collaborator with Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guillermo Klein and many more. On his new release The Now, Goldberg reunites with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, the virtuoso rhythm team going all the way back to his 1998 debut Turning Point. On their fifth outing together, the trio foregrounds a central truth about the art of playing jazz: that no two performances will be the same because the music is created, in Goldberg’s words, “in the dynamic plane of the present.”
“A jazz record is literally one moment in time,” Goldberg explains. “Each song captures those five minutes, and not more. This is especially counterintuitive when you think about iconic jazz recordings like Kind of Blue, where we can all sing every solo. That record would sound totally different, we’d all be singing different solos, if it’d been recorded five minutes later or even five seconds later. That aspect of jazz is what makes it magical for me. I think every time you make an album you contribute to this illusion that jazz operates like other forms of music, where you figure out the song, you practice it, you play it a million times, then you record the definitive version. Jazz doesn’t work like that, and I felt it was time to explicitly wrestle with this in some thematic way.”
In every idiomatic zone from Brazilian ballads to roaring bebop, Goldberg and the trio have a way of spontaneously sculpting every bar as it flows by, like a wave on a river. That Rogers and Harland have also spent the last few years working with master saxophonist Charles Lloyd has deepened their communication and subtlety beyond measure. With Goldberg, they revel in the lesser-explored corners of jazz repertoire, bringing wit, explosive chops and also keen understatement to bear on the music at hand.
“I met Reuben back in 1992 in Boston, when he was going to Berklee and I was going to Harvard,” Goldberg recalls. “He had just started playing upright bass. Eric I met in 1997, playing with [saxophonist] Greg Tardy. I felt an instant connection with them. There was never a feeling of having to tell them what I want or even what I want the trio to sound like. It was intuitive in the way that friendships are, or romantic relationships. It feels right and you find yourself growing, discovering things, getting somewhere new that you wouldn’t have gotten to alone. When you feel that connection, it opens a path to your subconscious — you can escape your preconceptions, the need for an agenda, and you can just let the music be.”
Goldberg became a jazz devotee in Boston during high school. After spending a year in New York City at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, he enrolled at Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude in 1996 with a concentration in Mind, Brain and Behavior. A founding member of Betty Carter’s famed and indispensable Jazz Ahead program, he continued his ascent performing in bands led by Al Foster, Freddie Hubbard, Nicholas Payton, Stefon Harris and Mark Turner among others. By the late 1990s, he was garnering wider attention, and an incessant touring schedule found him both inspired by music from around the world yet appreciative of the zen creativity that only jazz demands.
On Chico Buarque’s “Trocando em Miúdos” (roughly, “settling the small things” in Brazilian Portuguese), Goldberg and his partners reveal the sense of inner dynamism and flux that perfectly embodies the concept of The Now. “It’s a song about a couple that has broken up and they have to divide up all their common belongings,” the pianist says. “I heard it at a point when I was ending a long relationship and dealing with many of the same emotions, so I had a kind of total body experience of the song. It was a song I needed to play. In the studio was the second time we ever tried it, so it was being worked out in the moment and it has that explorative quality.”
Extending the Brazilian theme, Goldberg interprets Djavan’s “Triste Baía da Guanabara” and Toninho Horta’s “Francisca” with great lyrical and virtuosic flair. “There’s a deep Brazilian songwriting tradition, every bit as deep as our American songwriting tradition,” Goldberg says. “In the same way that our Tin Pan Alley composers were thinking equally about melody, harmony and lyrics, these Brazilian composers were also synthesizing melody, harmony, lyrics — and their best songs are pristine in all respects simultaneously.”
“Yo Yo” is a traditional Haitian song with lyrics “about a guy who’s a seller in the market,” Goldberg says. “The idea is that he always gives you more meat or more vegetables than you ask for. Everybody loves him — the women in particular love Yo Yo because he always gives them more than they bargain for. It’s a great tune for improvising, oddly related to some more familiar standards like ‘Autumn Leaves.’ Rhythmically it’s open to many approaches even though there’s something deeply African in the groove. Reuben is from St. Thomas and has a very intuitive concept of a range of Caribbean music.”
Goldberg’s lyrical waltz “The Wind In the Night” is “basically a love song, where the male character is the Wind and the female character is the Night.” The subject of “E-Land,” meanwhile, is Eric Harland himself. Goldberg offers “a sort of introduction to the world of Eric, or at least one of his realms. I wanted to design an environment for him to unleash the 'drummer' side of himself. The piece has a few different sections, we move between them, and essentially he’s at liberty to do whatever he wants.”
Goldberg’s bread-and-butter jazz vocabulary, his mastery and sense of invention on blues and standards, is second to none. On The Now, he lends Charlie Parker’s “Perhaps” a twist: the melody is played one quarter note apart in the right and left hand. Warne Marsh’s “Background Music,” on the changes of “All of Me,” is jaw-dropping in its speed, precision and unrelenting swing: the trio at full blast. “One’s a Crowd,” in another twist, uses the chord changes to Joe Henderson’s “Serenity.” “On Worlds (2006), we recorded a tune called ‘Unstablemates,’ and this is a similarly respectful de-rangement,” says Goldberg. “‘Serenity’ has a 14-bar form, while ‘One’s a Crowd’ drops a bar to 13, which alone renders it less serene. Melodically and improvisationally it aims to capture that mood when you're alone but your inner voice won't stay quiet."
“One Life,” the closing track, brings Goldberg’s friend and sometime employer Kurt Rosenwinkel on board as a guest. The eerily peaceful, almost whistling sound of Rosenwinkel’s guitar has even more impact when one learns that Goldberg wrote “One Life” at the request of a married couple who had lost their teenage daughter. “It’s impossible to capture a life in music and I’d never met their daughter in person,” he says. “But their loss moved me, and I was moved that they asked. It took a long time just to sit at the piano and believe I could write something worthy of this one Life. We learned the song and then right before we recorded it, I told Kurt [about the dedication]. I watched him process this for a few minutes, he closed his eyes and sat with it. He didn’t even know the people involved, but he internalized the purpose and urgency. It’s hard to channel your emotions to that degree of depth in the studio, and Kurt was magnificent.”
Jazz has a way of summoning that kind of spirit from musicians, and Goldberg knows exactly how to capture it, surrounding himself with kindred spirits in pursuit of the highest expression. He and the trio embody the best of what jazz can be today: the ability to speak from deep within the tradition while putting their own collaborative imprint upon it. Combined with his personal take on jazz’s intangible and viscerally uplifting heritage, this makes Goldberg just the player to share all he knows about The Now.
Aaron Goldberg, piano
Reuben Rogers, bass
Eric Harland, drums
Kurt Rosenwinkel, guitar (Track 10)
“For over 20 years, pianist Aaron Goldberg has set himself apart as one of the most scintillating performers in jazz,” hails JazzTimes. Goldberg is widely heralded as one of the art form’s most compelling pianists, both leading his own trio and collaborating with such brilliant voices as Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guillermo Klein and many more.
Goldberg became a jazz devotee in high school as a student at Milton Academy in Boston. He was introduced to the African-American art of improvisation by bassist and master educator Bob Sinicrope, and at age 16 began study with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi. As Aaron puts it, “At first improvisation was a mystery and a puzzle, but soon it became a profound inner and outer journey as life and music entwined.” After receiving awards from Berklee College of Music and Downbeat Magazine, he moved to New York City at 17 to attend The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Devoting himself entirely to music for the first time, he won the NFAA Recognition and Talent Search and IAJE Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellowship, attending classes by day and performing in NYC clubs by night, ever-inspired by NYC’s myriad living masters.
After spending a year at The New School, Aaron enrolled at Harvard College and began a cross-disciplinary program in philosophy, psychology and the history of science. He graduated magna cum laude in 1996 with a concentration in Mind, Brain and Behavior. While at Harvard he lived a double life, juggling academics with an equally intense musical docket. At age 18 he was discovered by the inimitable vocalist Betty Carter and became a founding member of Carter’s famed Jazz Ahead program throughout his college years. He performed locally with Boston legends Jerry Bergonzi, Alan Dawson, and Bill Pierce, played every weekend at Boston’s famed Wally’s Café and spent summers in NYC cementing longstanding ties on the bandstand with up-and-coming friends such as Mark Turner and Omer Avital.
Aaron promptly moved back to New York after college, continuing his ascent in bands led by a cross-generational array of icons including Al Foster, Freddie Hubbard, Nicholas Payton, Stefon Harris, Tom Harrell, Gregory Tardy and John Ellis among others. In late 1997 he formed his first trio with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, a widely acclaimed empathic unit that would perform and record consistently for the next two decades and leave a mark upon the next generation of musicians.
Beginning in early 1998 Aaron began to garner wider attention worldwide while touring and recording with the Joshua Redman Quartet, marking the beginning of a longstanding artistic collaboration and friendship that endures today. In 2004 he began a multiyear tenure with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and in 2005 toured with Wynton Marsalis’s quintet as well as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Despite this demanding schedule Aaron earned a Masters Degree in Philosophy under philosopher Daniel Dennett, commuting to Tufts University for class and writing papers while on tour. Over the past decade Goldberg has continued to perform globally both with his trio and with the Joshua Redman Quartet, as well as collaborating with such diverse artists as Cecile McLorin Salvant, Peter Bernstein, Camila Meza, Ravi Coltrane, Carl Allen, Madeleine Peyroux and Eli Degibri. Aaron’s most recent work as a bandleader has been released on Sunnyside Records. At the Edge of the World (2018) features bassist Matt Penman and master drummer/body percussionist Leon Parker, which Jazziz claims “rekindles a musical relationship that in the past has provided many sparks and no shortage of fireworks.” The Now (2015) foregrounds his original trio comprising two of the finest musicians of his generation, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland. These follow upon Home (2010) and Worlds (2006), which both capture the sensitivity and dynamism of this tight-knit trio along with special guests. Goldberg’s debut recording under his own name, Turning Point, appeared on the J Curve label in 1999, followed by Unfolding on the same imprint in 2002.
Returning to the present day, Aaron’s most recent collaborative project Yes! Trio is a trilateral celebration co-led by Omer Avital and Ali Jackson Jr. Groove du Jour (2019) marks their long-awaited release on the Jazz & People label, after their eponymous Sunnyside Records debut in 2012. “This sensational meeting of players is a near-perfect mixture of ingredients, bristling with braggadocious energy” says DOWNBEAT. Goldberg's additional critically-acclaimed collaborations include a unique co-led album with Argentinian master composer Guillermo Klein entitled Bienestan (2011), as well as a new duet project with Palestinian qanunist and vocalist Ali Paris, exploring both the intersections of Arabic music and jazz as well as that of art and politics. As a co-leader Goldberg has recorded 4 albums with the OAM Trio, appears upon over 100 albums as a sideman, and co-wrote with John Ellis a series of educational cds for children entitled Baby Loves Jazz.
As a citizen Aaron maintains an active interest in education and political engagement, including in the role of music in society as a whole. In 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 he produced and performed in Jazz for America's Future, Jazz for Obama, Jazz for Obama 2012, and Jazz for America’s Future 2016, historic fundraising concerts for the presidential campaigns of John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. He is a member of the faculty at both the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and William Paterson University, and frequently travels as a clinician to conservatories and jazz workshops worldwide. In 2019, Goldberg received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from University of the Arts, Helsinki – the highest acknowledgement that the university can confer.
Throughout his career Aaron Goldberg has surrounded himself with kindred spirits in pursuit of the highest expression. He and his bandmates embody the best of what jazz can be today: the ability to speak together from deep within the tradition in a progressive voice, marking both present and future with their creative stamp. Aaron’s joy in communal improvisation inspires audiences worldwide, empowering the human spirit to embrace the moment.
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