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Two Sides of Ben Goldberg

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Developments in the evolving recording industry have inspired an increasing number of musicians to form their own labels. San Francisco-based clarinetist Ben Goldberg, a veteran of the 1990s Downtown New York scene, joined many of his peers in 2009 with Go Home, the inaugural release of his BAG Production Records imprint. Goldberg's prior efforts, issued by independents like Songlines and Tzadik, included an assortment of diverse projects, ranging from the Radical Jewish Culture experiments of the New Klezmer Trio to the deconstructed bebop of Junk Genius. Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues and Unfold Ordinary Mind are Goldberg's two most recent endeavors, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg: Go Home

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From the debut of his seminal New Klezmer Trio two decades ago to his current membership in the inimitable collective Tin Hat, clarinetist Ben Goldberg has gradually worked his way from the outer fringes of the avant-garde to the accessible center of the new jazz underground. Go Home is the inaugural release of his own label, BAG Production, and the premier of his most approachable band.

Aided by guitarist Charlie Hunter, drummer Scott Amendola and cornetist Ron Miles, Goldberg unveils a collection of pieces that revel in tuneful simplicity. This lineup's straightforward approach towards song form is quite ...

INTERVIEWS

Ben Goldberg: Clarinet Communion

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The diversity of clarinetist Ben Goldberg's musical interests may only be matched by the intensity of his study. He grew up on The Beatles and classic jazz, started playing Klezmer music at the University of California, Berkeley in the early '80s, and studied with renowned classical clarinet teacher Rosario Mazzeo. In 1984, he became the clarinetist for The Klezmorim, touring throughout the U.S. and Europe, where he also met and learned from the legendary soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. In 1987, he started the New Klezmer Trio with drummer Kenny Wollesen and bassist Dan Seamans, a band that led the way ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg: Go Home

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This disc rocks, which is not something normally said about sets led by a clarinetist. But it doesn't begin that way. The sound of Go Home, from clarinetist/composer Ben Goldberg, croons to life with a smooth and creamy licorice stick/cornet unison interlude on “TGO," with the dark wood-wielding leader joined by brass man Ron Miles for a duo introduction. Then, thirty seconds in, the crunch and slam rock element rears its head, pushed to the surface by 7-String guitar ace Charlie Hunter and drummer Scott Amendola. With the rhythm team on board, Goldberg takes a snaky, writhing solo that wouldn't ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Ben Goldberg's Bag: Tin Hat & Go Home

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Ben Goldberg's music has never followed a set course or formula and the forward-thinking clarinetist always sticks to his guns when making artistic decisions. This has often resulted in positive press for his innovative work and it appears to have propelled him to take control of his own destiny. BAG Production Records is Goldberg's new, self-created label and it serves as an outlet for him to present his recordings to the world at large. Goldberg's work with reed players John Zorn and Don Byron, pianist Myra Melford, and trumpeter Steven Bernstein--to name just a few examples--places him within the orbit ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg: Go Home

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A comfortable familiarity permeates Go Home, the latest project from veteran clarinetist Ben Goldberg and the first offering from his Bag Production Records. Culled from both studio and live cuts, these feel-good romps suggest the intimacy of a jam session. He enlists longtime collaborators Charlie Hunter on seven-string guitar, Ron Miles on trumpet and cornet and Scott Amendola on drums, and their easy rapport fosters the music's success. Trafficking in meaty mid- and slow-cooking tempos, the group is never in a rush. Brass and reed introduce “TGO"; entering by turns, Hunter and Amendola patiently build a beat ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg: Go Home

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Between the rather eclectic and enigmatic The Door, The Chair, The Hat, The Fact (Cryptogramophone, 2006) and Plays Monk (Long Song, 2007), his characteristically idiosyncratic and unorthodox trio take on the music of Thelonious Monk, clarinetist Ben Goldberg continues to expand his broad musical interests, heard in earlier groups including Tin Hat and New Klezmer Trio. Few American artists other than Don Byron and Perry Robinson have focused so exclusively on this small wooden reed instrument, and while Goldberg's left-of-center concerns sometimes mirror Robinson's, he's equally influenced by more youthful concerns, a differentiator made all the more obvious on Go ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg Quintet: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact

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This is music that produces seemingly random associations as snippets of form and formlessness lead you to free, or perhaps not so freely, associate. Personal experiences dovetail with these compositions, which lead through nodes of memory and mood: from poet Robert Creeley to Alan Ginsburg to swing, world and free, through Bechet, Bird and Trane and then, of course, to the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Poet Rosmarie Waldrop speaks of how we can examine by boring down or zooming out. Both techniques are operating here. Her short memorial to Creeley viewed his mind as now finding its way into ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg Quintet: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact

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Steve Lacy may no longer be here, but he's “hear" these days, a musical spirit living on in many facets and forms. Clarinetist Ben Goldberg's quintet has recorded a loving tribute to Lacy in The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact, a collection of poignant vignettes, interpretations and revitalizations.

Goldberg, known for his progressive take on klezmer and for various projects that mix Northern Californian flavoring with a downtown NYC avant-jazz sensibility, gathered vocalist/violinist Carla Kihlstedt (from the Tin Hat trio & quartet), tenor saxophonist Rob Sudduth, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith--all associated with the eclectic Bay ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg Quintet: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact

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Ben Goldberg returns after a seven-year absence from recording with one for Steve Lacy. Goldberg wrote the music in 2004 when he came to know that the soprano saxophonist had cancer. The album was recorded three days after Lacy died.

Lacy's “Blinks is in a state of constant flux. Goldberg's clarinet breaks up the lines, but the piece becomes volatile and churns relentlessly when violinist Carla Kihlstedt bows in. With bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith roiling beneath, this track nails attention. Goldberg bases some of the other tunes on “Blinks, but apart from that, his writing reflects a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg Quintet: The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact

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He's been active for fifteen years, but unless you know the New Klezmer Trio or have followed the Bay Area scene, chances are you haven't heard of clarinetist Ben Goldberg. Despite appearing on records by Charlie Hunter, Tin Hat Trio and John Zorn, in addition to half a dozen albums released under his own name, he's never managed to grab significant attention, despite the relatively light competition in the jazz clarinet arena. So hopefully The Door, The Hat, The Chair, The Fact, his first release in seven years and his debut on the intrepid left coast Cryptogramophone label, will push ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg - John Schott - Trevor Dunn: Almost Never

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Almost Never represents the latest effort from Bay area musicians, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, guitarist John Schott and bassist Trevor Dunn. And while they have recorded as a unit along with drummer Kenny Wollesen, under the moniker of Junk Genius, Almost Never signifies their freshman outing for the modern jazz-improvisation based Nuscope Recordings label.

The musicians seemingly defy gravity with their light touch and flotation style of interaction on the opener, “Pitchbend,” partly due to Goldberg’s soft, vibrato-less lines and Dunn’s wavering yet quintessentially solid pulse whereas, Schott comps and prods with delicate voicings. The band elicits a soothing whisper of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Ben Goldberg Trio: Here By Now

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Ben Goldberg is one of the few determined jazz musicians who have revived and perhaps reinvented the potential use of the clarinet as a driving force in modern jazz. Ben Goldberg, Marty Ehrlich and Francois Houle represent a few notable clarinetist’s seeking new musical avenues while implementing their distinct styles and unique approaches via composition and improvisation. The Ben Goldberg Trio's Here By Now is a worthy edition to the ever-increasing catalog of modern jazz visionaries who utilize the clarinet as a multi-textured instrument while casting aside those old adages and misconceptions of it being one-dimensional.

In contrast to Goldberg’s ...



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