Live at Dizzy
Release Date: March 22, 2024
Label: Cellar Music Group
Brandon Goldberg Trio Live at Dizzy is a monumental lightning strike of inspired arrangement, potent collaboration, and utter mastery, releasing March 22 via Cellar Music Group.
For Goldberg, performing at Dizzy’s, let alone recording at it, represents a salient full-circle moment. Apart from being what Goldberg describes as “one of the best sounding - and prettiest - rooms in New York,” Dizzy’s holds a sentimental value to the bandleader. “The first time I heard music in New York was at Dizzy’s,” Goldberg says. That concert Goldberg watched now carries with it another element of poetic resolution. “My parents took me to see the Bill Charlap Trio [at that first performance],” Goldberg says. “And now, Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes came to hear us on the first night of our run.”
Goldberg’s trio concept is grounded in the great piano trios of the 1950s and 1960s. Drawing on the influence of legends such as Ahmad Jamal, Red Garland, Oscar Peterson, and Sonny Clark, Goldberg’s arrangements and compositions seek to pay homage to his predecessors through both tasteful renditions and intentional curation. Live at Dizzy’s presents the trio’s modernized take on the music of these historic trios while still giving respect to the pianists and traditions of those by whom Goldberg was inspired
Due to the album’s nature as a live recording, the song choice and track order is, in many ways, more particularly and carefully placed than a traditional studio album. Live at Dizzy’s opens with “Unholy Water,” an original composition from Goldberg’s oeuvre. Rather than beginning the writing process for this piece with a chord progression as many pianists do, Goldberg began sketching this piece simply knowing that he was writing it specifically for Wolfe and Kimmel, armed with only a series of syncopations and a fast-paced melody. When he brought the ideas in to rehearse with his trio, his collaborators’ artistry brought this piece, whose intentionally amorphous structure is grounded exclusively by the rhythm of the piece, to life in a way that intimately matched the vision Goldberg had sought to achieve.
“Circles” is another original composition, originally featured on Goldberg’s previous release In Good Time for a quartet setting. Reimagined for this tour, the composition has taken on a dramatically different trajectory, and stands as a testament to his trio’s versatile imagination. The album also features writing by Goldberg’s peers. Notable in this vein is Ben Wolfe’s arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate On You”. Goldberg wanted this piece on the set for sentimental reasons, as his grandparents had previously exposed him to the piece as a child through the golden era recordings by Frank Sinatra. Now, Wolfe’s arrangement of this standard references the stylings of the Ahmad Jamal Trio and showcases Goldberg’s trio’s ability to listen and respond with the highest intricacy. The album concludes with the great Jimmy Heath piece, “Compulsion”. “Miles Davis’s Collectors Items is one of my favorite records ever, and I felt that this set of music needed something special to close with,” Goldberg says. “‘Compulsion’ encapsulates the excitement and rhythm that makes jazz music so unique.” This track features a standout drum solo by Aaron Kimmel, evoking the expressive personality of Philly Joe Jones while highlighting his own unique persona and virtuosity.
As with any trio recording, each musician is equally important, even while filling utterly different roles. The power and inspiration of Live at Dizzy’s is a testament not only to Goldberg’s leadership, but the interwoven brilliance of the ensemble’s three unified minds. Goldberg acknowledges the elevation that his peers bring to this recording, and to every performance. “I arrived at Dizzy’s hours before our sound check to warm up and practice prior to the
shows,”Goldberg says, “and Ben Wolfe would already be there before me, warming up and practicing. I respect and appreciate his unyielding professionalism and dedication to the music.” Of Kimmel, Goldberg likewise has nothing but praise. “I admire Aaron Kimmel’s desire for perfection,” he says. “We played several of the songs that we selected for the album in all four sets of our Dizzy’s run, and during each break, Aaron and I would discuss what worked, what we could improve on, how to get a better vibe in the room, what tempos to change, what textures were best.” It is this unanimous and relentless commitment to the music and to each other that makes Goldberg’s trio soar above mere technical impressiveness.
Brandon Goldberg Trio Live at Dizzy’s is a prodigious work, wrapped in tradition and steered with refreshing contemporaneity. A testament to shared musical vision, this album showcases Goldberg’s musicianship in equal portion to Wolfe and Kimmel’s. Indeed, they stand together with a single, compound sound, that is not that of a band, but that of an overarching, homogenous voice.
Brandon Goldberg Trio Live at Dizzy’s releases on Cellar Music Group on March 22nd, 2024.
In Good Time
Release date: September 17, 2021
Pianist, composer and bandleader Brandon Goldberg 's second album release, In Good Time follows his critically-acclaimed debut release LET’S PLAY! from 2019. Goldberg approaches In Good Time with a refined, seasoned sensibility and is joined by a top-shelf quintet through five original compositions and five smartly arranged jazz standards. Showcasing Goldberg’s pianistic prowess and stunning compositional facility, the album features the 15 year old instrumentalist in a powerhouse trio with late drum giant Ralph Peterson and heralded bassist Luques Curtis, filled out by a supple horn section made up of saxophonist Stacy Dillard and trumpeter Josh Evans. Trumpeter Antoine Drye makes an appearance on the album’s closing track for a duo performance with the bandleader.
Three years ago, when pianist Brandon Goldberg was 12, he turned heads with his accomplished debut project LET’S PLAY!, a compelling trio recital with upper-echelon jazz veterans Ben Wolfe on bass and Donald Edwards on drums on which he functioned as a musical peer in an equilateral triangle. Now, fully in command of his materials, Goldberg spotlights considerable instrumental faculty while presenting a program that gives each member ample space to express individualism while also fulfilling collective imperatives. The pieces convey a broad range of emotional and timbral flavors through Goldberg’s sophisticated refraction of a long timeline of improvisatory dialects and compositional strategies culled from a century of Jazz, Black American Music, and American Songbook expression.
“I really love Brandon,” says jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison. “He will be one of our most important musicians and he has always been a gentleman. It makes me happy to see him grow up before my very eyes. He is a family member to me.”
Goldberg displays an impeccable synergy with the incomparable rhythm section made up of Luques Curtis and drum legend Ralph Peterson. Here, the late drummer exudes a characteristic energy, soulfulness, and focus which is reciprocated and amplified by Goldberg. Devastatingly, the master drummer and educator would pass three months after the completion of the album, after his fierce six-year battle with cancer. “Ralph was pure intensity,” Goldberg said in May after In Good Time was fully sequenced and mastered. “If you reached a point where you got comfortable, he’d play something completely unexpected to put you on edge.” Aside from the notes and tones, Goldberg added, Peterson “had something to do with everything in this project.” Their relationship began in 2018 at the Litchfield Jazz Festival when pianist Orrin Evans – a Goldberg advocate since teaching him two years earlier at Litchfield Jazz Camp – introduced them. “Ralph gave me his card and said, ‘Dial it, don’t file it,’” Goldberg continued, “Once we got serious and I started writing, we talked about once a week,” Goldberg recalled. “But even before, any time I needed help with music… he said he wanted to tell me what not to do, but not what I should be doing, because he never wanted to get in the way of what I wanted. That’s how he was, and he said that’s how Art Blakey was with him.”
Peterson’s signature raspy voice begins the record in a voicemail that he sent the young bandleader prior to the album’s conception, setting the stage with a heartfelt reminder of the late drummer’s tenacity and dedication to the legacy of jazz. The voicemail fades and the listener hears Goldberg’s unwavering voice count the group off, echoing the urgency of Peterson’s voicemail, Goldberg is ready to get down-to-business and the bright-tempoed swing of Goldberg’s original composition “Authority” reflects just that. This sprightly ensemble-piece harkens back to the hard-bop sensibilities of the Jazz Messengers and includes masterful solos from Goldberg, Dillard and Evans. Goldberg demonstrates his gift for melodic invention on his originals “Circles” and “Time”. The former, titled for its repeating theme, features Dillard’s lyric, soaring soprano saxophone atop Peterson’s undulating, authoritative brushstrokes. The latter begins as a ballad, poignantly stated by Evans. Curtis’ lyric meditation follows, then Evans uncorks an improvisation that resolves on the head, whereupon the tempo transitions to medium-bright (Peterson percolates again on brushes) for another inspired Dillard declamation.
Goldberg’s interpretations of classic jazz compositions demonstrate the young players ability to tip-the-hat to the composer of the piece while also bringing something new to the table. “Monk’s Dream” captures the idiosyncrasy of the composition while Goldberg also explores its harmonic richness with adept vertical playing that outlines the changes tastefully and tells a cohesive story. The piece also features an iconic, fiery solo from Peterson, bringing the tune back to its head. Goldberg further channels the sonic palette of late ’60s Miles on “Stella By Starlight,” which he addresses on Fender Rhodes, dressing up the old chestnut with fresh melodic variations and a 6/8 feel. A stately duo of Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” with gold-toned trumpeter Antoine Drye acts as the pianist’s encore. Goldberg leaves the audience on a tender note, providing a nuanced grace to the conclusion of an album which will surely cement Goldberg’s stature as a preeminent fixture in the scope of jazz.
JazzTimes writer Ken Franckling notes “He understands the basics and nuances of making jazz – and swings like mad in the great company of his trio mates.”
For: In Good Time
DEE DEE MCNEIL
“Benny told me there should be something swinging, something pretty, something funky, something spicy and something you can listen to without having to think about it,” Brandon Goldberg mused. This jazz journalist feels confident saying, this album offers all of that and more!" Read the full review here.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"Fifteen? Would you believe it? Perhaps maturity is overrated." Read the full review here.
"Goldberg, at 15, is already in possession of gifts many fail to ever acquire: an unassailable technique, advanced harmonic understanding, a deep sense of swing and, most impressively, a clarity and plethora of ideas executed to near-perfection." Review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Pianist Brandon Goldberg may not have the seasoned years behind him yet, (In Good Time finds him brewing with ideas most fifteen-year-olds never tackle) but it is no more a beloved veteran than the late Ralph Peterson who, via a wisely archived voice mail, urges the young man 'What's up Brandon, gimme a shout man we hook up later this week!'"Read the 4-star review here.