Call me a jazz purist if you will, but generally I believe that straight-ahead jazz is an acoustic medium - an art form meant to be created live, ‘in the moment’, without the use of overdubs and with a minimum use of electronics. That makes synthesizers a big no-no in my eyes. But the synthesizers used on this recording are so tastefully employed and produce such an organic sound that if I hadn’t read it in the credits I would not have guessed there were any synths present.
Then there’s the second red flag: original tunes. More often than not, the force driving a band to write all it’s own tunes is ego. Lots of great musicians mistakenly think that they are also great composers or that they need to avoid standards for some reason, and so one ends up with an album of great playing but mediocre tunes. That is not at all the case with this album. Goldman is a wonderful composer. Each tune is engaging, tugging at the ear with melodies that sound at once familiar yet fresh. It’s a truly impressive collection.
That brings me to the final red flag: personnel. The best, tightest sounding bands are usually the ones that maintain the same members over an extended period of time. And the best albums are usually the ones that maintain the same basic lineup from one tune to the next, creating a sense of musical continuity. This album, again, goes against the odds and wins. Besides Goldman playing alto sax, soprano sax, flute and synthesizer, you have Ron Perrillo on piano and synthesizer, George Fludas and Kobie Watkins on drums, Bobby Broom, Luciano Antonio, Neal Alger and Wilber Jarmon on guitar, Dennis Carroll and Tim Fullerton on bass, Dede Sam Pio and Walter O’Neal on percussion and Kareen Frank and Jackie Allen on vocals. Yet Goldman has somehow managed to mesh all these players together to create an extremely uniform, evenly produced album.
In addition to having written all the songs, Goldman also arranged each of them, some to stunning effect. On the song "For All The People" he uses Kareen Frank’s voice strictly as a background harmony instrument, which makes for a very unique, very beautiful sound. Vocals are only used on three of the eleven tracks on this album (once with Frank and twice with Jackie Allen), always as background harmony instruments. Every note played on every song is superb, with each musician showing great technical as well a great improvisational skills. I’m very much looking forward to Goldman’s next release, and after listening to this one I think you will, too.