One thing's for sure: there's a whole lot of music to be heard on Alex Goodman's new double album Impressions in Blue and Red. At 27 tracks and a running time of over 100 minutes, the Canadian jazz guitarist has taken a stand when it comes to quantity on his newest album. Any concern that the quality could suffer as a result is extinguished after the first few bars into the opener. Divided over two different sets according to the colors red and blue, and two different corresponding casts of side-musicians, Goodman offers some of his most fierce playing to date and wraps it in carefully conceived instrumentation and meticulously wrought compositions.
More than half of the tunes are preambuled by short introductory improvisations, performed by each member of the cast and serving as elegant segues to the actual compositions. Goodman comments: "Those intros are something that I incorporated as a way for each musician to reveal their expressive voices more fully, but I also think they heighten the flow of the album." And so they do. The playful concept on the colors blue and red traces back to how closely the guitarist associates color with music, and how both go beyond language. Goodman is joined by Ben van Gelder, Martin Nevin and Jimmy Macbride on the blue set, while Alex LoRe, Rick Rosato and Mark Ferber make up the band for the red one.
A lot of the music on Impressions in Blue and Red is spoken in post-bop tradition. In that spirit, Goodman's earthy guitar tone is layered in soft reverb, so that the saxophone can comfortably swing on top and the two don't have to worry about getting in each other's ways. However, the structures aren't always strictly linear. Some heads don't really work as such à la bop-definition, but rather introduce refreshing harmonic concepts and melodic motifs that are then reproduced in altered forms or quotes. "Moods" and "Zen" are two examples of many songs on the album that share this progressive tendency and seem to live and breathe all on their own.
Another concept that becomes very apparent in the course of the album is the counterpoint technique. Not just the obvious nod represented by "Sonata Nr.12 Adagio," but several exhibitions on the record and many of the twists and turns in Goodman's solos demonstrate that the guitarist has been hard at work with baroque exercises and classical music in general. On "Blue Shade" the guitar is divided into two voices, bass and soprano, before the rest of the band joins in and restores a jazzier environment. This split mode resurfaces again later in the song, creating a layered effect that recalls fugues or inventions. On the sonata, Goodman plays with classical cadences, but resolves their progressions in uncharacteristic ways, thereby designing a space were classical music and jazz mingle.
It's impossible to pick favorites here. No color outclasses the other, each quartet brings unique strengths and characters to the music and creates an engaging environment for Goodman to express himself. Quality trumps quantity, and Impressions in Blue And Red provides both. Here's hoping the sheer volume of music here won't scare off any potential adherents. There's plenty of detail to discover, but it takes time, patience and repeated listens.
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.
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.