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Andrew Gould: First Things First

Dan Bilawsky By

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There are many realities to the jazz scene in New York. If you check out the marquee listings at the swankiest clubs, you'll see certain names pop up again and again for a short run here or there. These men and women are most certainly an important part of the mix and draw, having paid their dues, built their fan bases, and earned their place at the apex. But if you look at the bigger picture and dig deeper into basement settings and personnel listings, you'll notice a different set of names hitting somewhere nearly every night of every week. These musicians are also in high demand and held in high esteem, presenting in chameleonic fashion while stamping so many different musics with their individual personality traits. Saxophonist Andrew Gould is one such player.

Gould's list of credits is a mile long, tying him to guitarist Peter Mazza, trumpet titan Wallace Roney, Joe McCarthy's Afrobop Alliance, the legendary Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Sanabria's Multiverse Big Band, jazz-hop act Sly5thAve, the forward-thinking Revive Big Band, saxophone peers Paul Jones and Alex LoRe, and numerous others across the entire jazz spectrum. He's anywhere and everywhere on any given night—Zinc Bar, Smalls, Birdland, Mezzrow, the Village Vanguard, Cornelia Street Cafe, Treme or The Jazz Loft in/on nearby Long Island—and he brings his ferocious chops and taste wherever he goes. He's a sideman that everybody wants in their band, but he shouldn't be pigeonholed as a supporting figure. He has leader written all over him, as this debut date points out.

First Things First isn't the stuff of uncertainty that often comes with a first attempt at the fore. It's music of great passion and maturity, referencing a love of straight-ahead sounds and slicker throwdowns while simultaneously spotlighting Gould's gifts with the pen. He wrote nine of the ten numbers here—"The Goulden Ratio," opening the album and finding the saxophonist dancing on knife point, is pianist Steven Feifke's compositional contribution—and each highlights different aspects of his artistry. With "Cool Off" he offers a solid slice of funk, on the balladic "Song For Millie" he delivers contemplation and cool breezes, in "Mumbo Jumbo" he demonstrates an appreciation for bebop, and through "On A Darker Moon" he presents a soulful songwriter's tale that invites his Nuf Said band mate Ioana Vintu's vocals into a mellow R&B-inflected atmosphere and into close contact with his shadowing horn. Through it all, Gould manages to make a strong impression while also carving out space for guest trumpeter Scott Wendholt and communing with his core crew—Feifke, bassist Marco Panascia, and drummer Jake Goldbas.

Some might argue that Gould tries to cover too much ground here, and they may be right. But the truth is that he just plays what appeals to him, and his likes aren't one-dimensional. Having worked countless musical angles and numerous scenes within scenes, Gould's developed an appreciation for a variety of sounds and styles which have all clearly become part of his own lexicon. In short, he owns a wide vocabulary and he's not afraid to use it. First Things First makes that clear through its broad array of offerings and coherent presentations. It's a debut most certainly worth taking note of.

Track Listing: The Goulden Ratio; Rickshaw; Cool Off; Song For Millie; R Train; Mumbo Jumbo; On A Darker Moon; 7AM; First Things First; Destination.

Personnel: Andrew Gould: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, effects; Steven Feifke: piano, Rhodes piano; Marco Panascia: acoustic bass, electric bass; Jake Goldbas: drums, percussion; Ioana Vintu: vocals (7); Scott Wendholt: trumpet (2, 6).

Title: First Things First | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Outside In Music

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