Instrument endorsements have become standard fare in CD liner notes. On pianist/accordionist Gil Goldstein's first album as a leader in nearly fifteen years, they say that "He uses Sibelius Music Writing software and pencils by Rocket Manufacturing and that's a statement. Always a fine player since emerging on three 1976 albums with guitarist Pat Martino, including the now-classic duet record We'll Be Together Again (Muse, 1976), Goldstein has become equally in demand as a first-call arranger, orchestrator, conductor and producer. Under Rousseau's Moon gives Goldstein the opportunity to showcase all his skills, and completely on his own terms.
With a sextet featuring vibes, bass and a trumpet/saxophone front line, things sound conventional enough. But the enlistment of Don Aliaswho passed away in March, 2006, three short months after this album was recordedinstead of a conventional drummer creates a lighter, yet no less propulsive vibe. Guitarist Steve Khan has said that "no one had more swing on the congas in jazz than Don Alias, and this album is a fitting final document of this inestimable percussionist. But Goldstein ups the textural ante even further by also adding his Zebra Coast String Trio, providing a large palette from which to work.
Inspired by the writing and arranging of the late Jaco Pastorius and Gil Evans, the album opens with Evans' lush arrangement of "The Moon Struck One by The Band's Robbie Robertson, reworked by Goldstein for this unique nonet. It segues into an abstruse passage for vibes, bass, strings and percussion that ultimately resolves into an innovative take on Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee, and with bassist Richard Bona on board, it can't help but be referential to the version on Pastorius' 1976 Epic debut. Still, Bona's no mere imitator, even when he interprets Pastorius' signature lines on the bright "Liberty City, where Mike Mainieri's vibes take the place of the original's steel drums and Alias proves the truth of Khan's accolades.
The disc may draw strength from the arrangements, but there's no shortage of outstanding playing from everyone, either. Saxophonist Chris Potter continues to prove that he's the Michael Brecker of his generation, capable of fitting into any context. Trumpeter Randy Brecker not only makes a characteristically strong showing on "Liberty City, but Goldstein creatively melds his classic Brecker Brothers tune, "Some Skunk Funk, with the classic "Boplicity (from the 1949 Miles Davis classic Birth of the Cool). Pastorius' lyrical "Three Views of a Secret, where Goldstein's accordion meshes seamlessly with the strings, has never sounded so beautiful.
Beauty is, in fact, the operative word for this set. From the standard "Moonbeams to Richard Bona's achingly sublime vocals on his own "Suninga, Under Rousseau's Moon feels like the album Goldstein has been waiting to make all his life. Let's hope another fifteen years don't have to pass until the next one.
Track Listing: The Moon Struck One; Donna Lee; Three Women; Good Morning Anya; Bass Solo; Boplicity/Some Skunk Funk; Sarah's Touch; Percussion Solo; Liberty City; Three Views of a Secret; The Camel's Lament; Moondreams; Suninga.
Personnel: Gil Goldstein: piano, accordion; Don Alias: percussion; Richard Bona: bass, vocals; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Mike Mainieri: vibraphone; Chris Potter: saxophones, bass clarinet; The Zebra Coast String Trio: Joyce Hammann: violin; Lois Martin: viola; David Eggar: cello.