Alex Goodman: Impressions in Blue and Red

Rob Shepherd BY

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Alex Goodman: Impressions in Blue and Red
For most, there is a clear divide between musical and visual arts. But for individuals with chromesthesia, a condition where one sees colors when they hear a particular sound, the two can prove inseparable. Throughout history, many jazz musicians have exhibited chromesthesic symptoms, including Marian McPartland, James Francies, and drum legend Elvin Jones. Duke Ellington saw dark blue burlap when he played a D note and light blue satin for a G. Another, guitarist Alex Goodman, shares his experience on Impressions in Blue and Red.

The two discs are neatly divided, based on the colors—red and blue—the music on each evoked in the bandleader's mind. Prior to listening, one may be inclined to anticipate that the "red" disc would be energetic and "blue" more subdued. In reality, however, the songs do not neatly divide among these lines but instead more subtle ones based primarily on implied distinctions and textural attributes.

This emphasis on feeling appears intentional, as much of Goodman's preparation for the release focused on how various painters—including Van Gogh and Picasso—used either color to emphasize a particular mood. Musically, the album seemingly draws heavily upon cool jazz, particularly Jim Hall's work with Jimmy Giuffre. Most of the tracks exhibit a soothing quiet maturity. While they are in no way boring, they would provide a wonderful soundtrack for a leisurely stroll through an art gallery. This aspect is particularly fascinating when applied to the songs which are not original compositions—Herbie Hancock's "Toys," a Baroque sonata by Johann Rosenmüller, and two standards—"If I Loved You" and "I'll Never Be the Same."

Inspired by those who used different tools and strokes to reduce the colors in their minds to physical parchment, Goodman likewise arranged the ensembles available to him to better accent the shades and hues of his own thoughts. While both colored parts consist of the same instrumentation, they utilize completely different lineups to evince their less overt differences. On the "blue" disc he is joined by alto saxophonist Ben van Gelder, double-bassist Martin Nevin and drummer Jimmy Macbride while on "red" the same roles are respectively filled by Alex LoRe, Rick Rosato, and Mark Ferber.

Impressions' overall focus on less readily apparent distinctions works wonderfully as it rewards both closer and repeated listening. It also adds more sentimentality to most of the pieces. Although the majority of listeners will not see the colors experienced by Goodman as he composed and performed the songs, the work as a whole suggests a deep connection between the senses. That is, it emphasizes that the beauty of art can transcend the limitations of hearing, sight, or sometimes, both.

Track Listing

CD 1:
No Man's Land; Blue Shade (Intro); Blue Shade; Moods; Space Behind Eugene Boch (Intro); Space Behind Eugene Boch; Zen (Intro); Zen; Cobalt Blue; Still Life with Skull (Intro); Still Life with Skull.

CD 2:
I'll Never Be the Same; Choose; Circles in a Circle; Impending (Intro); Impending; In Heaven Everything Is Fine; Toys; Occam's Razor; Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It (Intro); Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It; E.T.; Sonata No. 12 Adagio (Intro); Sonata No. 12 Adagio; View in Perspective (Intro); View in Perspective; If I Loved You.


Alex Goodman: guitar; Ben van Gelder: saxophone, alto; Martin Nevin: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums; Alex LoRe: saxophone, alto; Rick Rosato: bass, acoustic; Mark Ferber: drums.

Album information

Title: Impressions in Blue and Red | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Outside in Music

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