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The Aaron Goldberg Quartet At The Village Vanguard

Dan Bilawsky By

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Aaron Goldberg Quartet
Village Vanguard
New York, NY
February 3, 2011

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night could keep pianist Aaron Goldberg from his appointed rounds at the Village Vanguard. While Goldberg's opening night met with all of the aforementioned conditions, and a few other treats that the weather gods saw fit to bring down upon the people, things had settled down by the third evening of the engagement and his augmented trio was in prime performance mode.

Goldberg's first set of the night, lasting just over an hour, was heavy on material from Home (Sunnyside, 2010), touching on everything from personalized takes on decidedly different songs of Latin American origin—Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Luiza" and Pablo Milanes' "Cancion Por La Unidad Latinoamericana"—to original, modern blues with attitude ("Aze's Bluzes"). The lone guest on that album—tenor saxophonist Mark Turner—reprised his role on the three quartet numbers from the recording, adding new layers of depth to the sound of this established trio. Turner's tone took on a sweet edge as he veered toward alto saxophone-like serenades on "Cancion Por La Unidad Latinoamericana," but he took on a weightier sound for "The Rules" and "Aze's Bluzes."

When Turner was tacit, Goldberg and his longtime trio mates had no problem holding the attention of the audience, as they dissected the music from every angle possible. Rubato piano introductions led to flexible displays of rhythmic acuity ("Taurus") and malleable bass lines melded with the piano, as brushes colored the corners of the music ("Luiza").

While bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland might have a higher profile from their work with saxophonist Charles Lloyd, their contributions to Goldberg's group easily rival and, perhaps, surpass what they do for that shamanistic saxophone legend. Harland's drumming on "The Rules" proved to be epic, as his chops swept through the room like a Category Five Hurricane, leaving the audience stunned by his rhythmic mastery. Post-modern swing currents, aggressive funk-tinged grooves and choppy, drum-n-bass derived beats were also part of the evening, giving ample demonstration of why Harland is held in such high regard throughout the jazz community. Rogers' role in the group, while no less important, was more hybrid in nature, doubling melody lines with Goldberg, providing stability in otherwise turbulent territories and soloing with skill, as displayed during "Taurus" and "Aze's Bluzes."

Some brief remarks from Goldberg served as an introduction for "Yoyo," a Haitian folk tune that the pianist reworked for the quartet and used to close out the set. Goldberg discussed an impending trip to Haiti, and touched on the tragedy that the earthquake wrought there, but the sunny music that followed these remarks spoke of the irrepressible spirit that resides deep within the culture of that country. Turner returned to the fold, adding sultry sounds to the mix, as Goldberg delighted in mixing funk, Latin-leaning sounds and tropical allure into this one appealing package.

Familiarity, in the case of the members of Aaron Goldberg's Quartet, breeds respect—not contempt—and communication of the highest level, as consistently demonstrated during this roller coaster ride of a set.
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