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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 more recent ambient outing on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, Here By Now is more structured from a compositional standpoint. The shape and form of these compositions are concrete and stand on solid ground. At times, Goldberg’s compositions seem classical in nature. Austere and complex, there are few sequences of extended soloing; however, on “December 6th” there is plenty of call-and-response between Goldberg and the amazing Trevor Dunn on bass. Many of the tracks weave soundscapes of unison lines among Goldberg, Dunn and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee. This is a tight and extremely well-organized unit. These are difficult pieces of music and it's likely that a good deal of sight-reading was required to pull them off.
Dunn is liable to go note-for-note with Goldberg’s agile clarinet maneuvers. Dunn also commands praise for his dual roles of pairing down the rhythms with Kavee while complimenting Goldberg’s lead clarinet digressions. Each composition features an assortment of abrupt and/or gradual time shifts yet it all pans out in supple fashion. While each track is similar in approach, the trio holds its own with inventiveness and deft execution. Goldberg seems comfortable within this framework yet can swing with the best of them.
Goldberg is a versatile musician; his work with Ehrlich and various ensembles are testaments to his artistic and technical adeptness. Goldberg seldom utilizes vibrato within his attack and execution, which may irritate some clarinet enthusiasts from the old school; however, his ability, technical superiority and vision speak for itself. Add the fact that his compositions are fresh and compelling.
Here By Now is a darn good recording and renders a fascinating glimpse into the future of modern jazz.