Saturday, May 30, 2015


On what would be the first of three nights at the Jazz Bistro, rising star jazz guitarist Alex Goodman brought in his newly formed chamber quintet to showcase its unique brand of classical-meets-jazz improvisation.    The series of gigs was also part of the TD Discovery Special Projects series as well as a future CD recording of this unique ensemble.

What I first noticed about this quintet was its unique instrumentation of vibraphone, acoustic guitar, voice, cello and percussion.   Through these instruments, they collectively improvise and blend together musically in addition to showing their virtuosic talents of each instrument.    Even the repertoire played in this quintet was different since it blends originals, classical music, and film music as vehicles for exploration and improvisation.   

Among the originals, the opener “Acrobat” allows Alex to show off his Spanish flamenco influences with his guitar styling’s and the percussion elements provided by Rogerio Baccato shifting from bossa nova to high-energy flamenco.   Also vocalist Felicity Williams showcases her creative and melodic vocals into the tune by treating it like an instrument that complements the ensemble effectively.    Vibraphonist Mike Davidson employs the four-mallet technique playing creative solos and accompanying as if he was a piano player, and Andrew Downing creates light and airy bass lines on the cello as if he was playing an upright bass.   

In its varied repertoire, the quintet does a creative and note-for-note arrangement of “Pure Imagination” from the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.   Keeping to that arrangement and utilizing its unique instrumentation brings a dreamy, magical quality to the music.    The standard “Darn that Dream” is even treated as a classically influenced reading with a moving arrangement and Felicity’s strong vocal reading.    An obscure standard, “Out of This World”, shifts from samba to swing, with effective and groovy solos by the ensemble and an arrangement that takes the standard into exploratory places.

Among its classically influenced pieces, the quintet took Scott Joplin’s “Solace” into a vehicle for collective improvisation, bringing in the “Spanish tinge” through Rogerio’s percussion and all members of the band bringing in their unique voices to transform and bring light to a piece that I haven’t heard before.   They even did Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” in the form of a tango and shows that there is no boundaries between the worlds of jazz and classical music.    Even Alex’s two guitar etudes, “Chorale” and “Song Without Words”, the interplay between voice and guitar is heavenly and sets a pensive, religious tone for the presentation of the music.   

Upon listening to Alex and his colleagues as a chamber quintet, I was treated to something fresh, new, creative, and musically stimulating.    The instrumentation is different, the repertoire is varied, and the performances are sensitive and well executed to a discerning audience.    


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