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Meet Jocelyn Gould

Photo credit: Benedetto Guitars

Sanford Josephson By

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Jocelyn Gould is a leader in the next generation of great mainstream jazz guitarists.
—Howard Paul, President, Benedetto Guitars
This article first appeared in Jersey Jazz Magazine.

Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, in a family that loved singing all the time, Jocelyn Gould played guitar to accompany her own vocalizing. But it wasn't until she was 18 years old that she became serious about jazz. That's when a friend introduced her to the 1965 Verve album, Smokin' at the Half Note, featuring the Wynton Kelly Trio and legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery.

That album, she said, "opened with a 13-minute tune called 'No Blues' (written by Miles Davis). "I listened to that record for a year straight." She also changed her major at the University of Manitoba from chemistry to jazz studies and went on to acquire a Master of Music in Jazz Studies degree from Michigan State University.

A lot has happened to Gould over the past couple of years. In August 2018, she won first place in the annual International Guitar jazz competition sponsored by Milwaukee's Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. A month later, she moved to New York City where she stayed for a year before moving back to Canada to accept a position as Head of the Guitar Department at Humber College in Toronto. While in New York, Gould was endorsed as a Benedetto Artist. In March 2020, she released her first album as a leader, Elegant Traveler, on the Posi-Tone label. She also appeared on three different 2019 albums with MSU faculty members: guitarist Randy Napoleon's Common Tones (Detroit Music Factory), trombonist Michael Dease's Never More Here (Posi-Tone), and tenor saxophonist Diego Rivera's Connections (Posi-Tone). Regarding the Benedetto endorsement, Gould recalled that she received two emails, almost one right after the other. "The first one was from the government saying my visa had been approved. The second one was from Jackson Evans at Benedetto, wondering if I'd be interested in a partnership. In July 2019, I went to Savannah and got to tour the factory."

Howard Paul, Benedetto's President, considers Gould, "a leader in the next generation of great mainstream jazz guitarists. She's deeply immersed in the history and musicality of the guitar pioneers like [Kenny] Burrell, Montgomery, [Barney] Kessel, [Grant] Green, and [Pat] Martino. She is in command of the instrument and the theory needed to preserve and advance the art form and maintains a confident-while-modest personality that is characteristic of the great musicians we'd all like to share a stage with or learn from. We at Benedetto are delighted that she's part of our artist family!"

Assuming it's safe by then, Gould will be joining the Benedetto staff at the Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island on August 13 and 14. According to Evans, the company's Customer Relations and Sales Manager, "Jocelyn and my wife, bassist/vocalist Maggie Evans, will be headlining performers in a show celebrating the great women of jazz. A drummer and I (on guitar) will be accompanying them. We're planning to book some other dates around it." In a review of Elegant Traveler for All About Jazz, Dan McClenaghan wrote that Gould, "displays some serious chops. She has soaked up the influences of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Joe Pass, and she wears that collective mainstream, swinging attitude on her sleeve, not only stylistically, but also in her sense of the joy of creation."

Napoleon, Gould's guitar instructor and professor at Michigan State, said she has "a rare intensity and tenacity that is the sign of a committed artist. She understands where the music is coming from, and where it is headed. Her passion for the guitar makes it clear that she is going places. It's a special and wonderful thing when a young player has her balance of feeling, discipline, and creativity." Through Napoleon, Gould had an opportunity to play with the late vocalist/pianist Freddy Cole. "Randy," she said, "was in Freddie's band for 11 years. When I started studying with him, he said, 'You have to play with Freddie.' He subbed out some gigs for me, but the one that was really special was in Atlanta. Freddie and his grandson picked me up at the airport, and we went to his house and listened to records all afternoon."

Gould became part of Dease's album after he heard her play a solo on Gerald Wilson's "Teri" at the Detroit Jazz Festival. That performance, he said, "moved me to the core. She played with a mature, soulful sense of phrasing and narrative that compelled me to add her to my band at the time, and we went into the studio shortly thereafter. Jocelyn Gould is going to be a big part of the future of jazz guitar—no doubt about it." In DownBeat's review of Dease's Never More Here album, J.D. Considine noted that the performance of Eric Alexander's "Frenzy," featured "blissfully angular solos by trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Jocelyn Gould." It was "really special," Gould said. "I got to have a solo right after Randy Brecker!"

Gould's year in New York, she said, was "hugely impactful—just to be there full-time, go out to jam sessions, and play with whomever I could. It was just incredible. On any given night, I could be playing with anyone at places like the Fat Cat and Mezzrow." She'll be coming back as much as possible, she added. "It's only a 60-minute flight."

A second album is being planned, but Gould is "waiting for things to open up a little. I haven't quite figured it out. The past few weeks I've been throwing out album titles and themes. I want to do something joyful. That's what I think we need right now. It will be a quartet album. I just want to do Smokin' at the Half Note."

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