The first thing that attracts attention on Elegant Traveler
, Jocelyn Gould's debut as a leader, is her guitar's tone. The sound she coaxes from the instrument has a profound effect on the music as a whole, yet it remains intimate, unpretentious and disarming. Whether Gould is playing a melody, improvising, or offering sparse accompaniment, it is these qualities, instead of an anxious, rapid-fire delivery, which lead the way. Every note is struck with care, stands up on its own, and rings out with a pristine clarity. The spaces between the full, rounded notes are nearly as important and speak for themselves. To name an example of her deliberate, understated mastery, throughout the blues "The Game Changer"one of the record's standout tracksan array of bent and elongated tones sound like the most sinful concoction on the dessert cart.
Gould's guitar blends nicely with a core band of pianist Addison Frei
, bassist George DeLancey
and drummer Quincy Davis
. Frei's brisk comping always leaves sufficient space for the leader. His fresh, inventive solo lines complement Gould's seven original compositions, a pair of Great American Songbook favorites and a Duke Ellington
tune. One highlight is his witty reaction to Gould during the melody of "The Game Changer." DeLancey's bass contains an appealing authority which propels the band without throwing around too much weight. Davis's contributions include solid timekeeping and a propensity for dense, twisting fills.
This particular configuration of instruments is sufficient to sustain interest for an entire record. However, various combinations of three horns are added on four tracks. Tenor saxophonist Brandon Wright
takes a memorable, straightforward turn on Gould's bebop by the numbers "Center Of The Universe." Trumpeter Anthony Stanco
's rendition of a portion of Ellington's "All Too Soon" and solo are startling in their austerity and emotional honesty. Combined with Gould's rubato intro and partial statement of the melody, the track resembles an intimate tale told by two individuals.
Gould's solo interpretation of "It Might As Well Be Spring" honors Richard Rodgers's song, yet weighs a number of options and makes every detour count. A combination of single notes and chords thrive without the guidance of a rhythm section. Just when she seems firmly settled into the melody, Gould inevitably reveals another, inventive side of her personality, including one bold, blues-drenched interlude. As loose as things are, she always remains in control of the narrative. It is interesting to compare the track to the up-tempo take of another standard, "It's All Right With Me." Leaning into Frei's, DeLancey's and Davis's smart accompaniment, she sculpts Cole Porter
's melody without an extraneous note or gesture. Elegant Traveler
bodes well for Jocelyn Gould's future as an instrumentalist, composer, bandleader and unaccompanied soloist.
It's All Right With Me; Kindling; Center Of The Universe; It Might As Well Be Spring; Change Of Plans; A Fleeting Moment; Argyle; In A Daydream; The Game Changer; All Too Soon.
Michael Dease: trombone (5, 7, 8); Antony Stanco: trumpet (5, 7, 10); Brandon Wright: tenor saxophone (3, 7).