Preview: Alex Goodman Chamber Quartet

Calgary axe-heads and jazz aficionados would be well advised to mark March 5 on their calendars to see a six-stringed genius at work on stage at NMC.
You can almost hear Alex Goodman wincing over the phone at the label. The award-winning Canadian guitarist and composer is between rehearsals, on a subway in New York City, preparing to leave for a gig in Mexico while promoting his upcoming Canadian tour.
He may be wincing, but he’s appreciative. “It helps encourage me, but more and more as time goes on… I just try to be as honest as I can about what I’m doing,” Goodman says. Ultimately, he’s spent much of the last year “trying to focus on being a better player and a better composer, and really putting all of my energy and focus into that, because that’s the important thing.”
It’s a good/better/best kind of improvement. Audiences and critics alike have been buzzing about 25-year-old Goodman since he cut the first of his three albums in 2007, and his most recent recording, Bridges, has just been nominated for a Juno Award for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year.
Recording Bridges with his quartet “was a fun time, actually: I was writing a lot, and I feel like the music on that record follows a common thread that pieces everything together. It’s very influenced by the music of J.S. Bach, kind of taking that harmonic language and kind of taking it into a modern jazz context.”
It was also influenced by New York City, where Goodman is currently living while pursuing a Masters in Music. “It’s been a great experience, and it has changed my outlook on music and how I play…. It’s kind of insane: the level of musicianship that exists here, the plethora of amazing musical performances that are happening every day, every night. It’s completely overwhelming in some ways, and unbelievably inspiring in others.”
The inspiration may have been new, but the drive to strive that characterizes NYC was familiar to Goodman and his hardworking Toronto bandmates. “For about 8 months… we were having weekly rehearsals, which is not unheard of in jazz, but is pretty rare,” he explains. “We were able to workshop a lot of things and the music grew organically. That (opportunity) doesn’t always exist for jazz groups, so I felt confident with the group as it developed because we’d spent so much time together.”
While listeners can expect to hear tracks from the new album, the group that’s going on tour in March is a little bit different, with the Alex Goodman Chamber Quartet featuring vibraphone, guitar, cello and voice. The music draws on both jazz and classical traditions, and voice is a new addition to Goodman’s compositional arsenal. “I’ve been listening to a lot of music that stems from the voice, and it kind of spurred an interest.”
Discover the bold new sounds of Alex Goodman for yourself as he hits the stage at NMC on Tuesday. March 5.
– Skye Perry

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