Canadian guitarist/composer Alex Goodman has been living in New York City for five years. Second Act is his fifth album, but the first to employ a New York City based band, and all the music was composed there as well. After a solo bass introduction from Rick Rosato "Questions" opens the set with fast swing, the whole group in acoustic mode. Pianist Eden Ladin takes an extended solo before the leader takes over on guitar. "The First Break" includes an expansive guitar solo, then Matt Marantz's fleet EWI solo takes things into electronic territorythe first sign that this will not be a straight acoustic quintet album.
"Losing Cool" begins with a solo guitar introduction before introducing the wordless vocals of Felicity WIlliams and Alex Samaras . Marantz also gets a lyrical saxophone spotlight. "Empty" introduces a rock feel (Ladin on Rhodes electric piano, Macbride powering through on drums), while Goodman's overdriven entrance really signals an unexpected, exciting move into fusion territory. But there's also a spirited dialog with Marantz's saxophone that grounds the piece with a jazz feel. "Apprehension" is another piece that benefits from the vocalists, sending an already melodic theme into memorable territory reminiscent of Chick Corea's Return to Forever (the Latin version, with Flora Purim, Airto Moreira and Joe Farrell).
Second Act successfully combines contemporary jazz sounds with a bebop foundation: memorable tunes that spark rich, exciting group interaction. This is a great band. I hope they stick together for a third act.
2. The First Break
4. Losing Cool Introduction
5. Losing Cool
9. Welcome to New York
Alex Goodman: guitar; Matt Marantz: saxophone, EWI; Eden Ladin: piano, Rhodes, Lowery; Rick Rosato: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums; Felicity Williams: vocals (5-8, 10, 11); Alex Samaras:vocals (5-8, 10, 11).