The Victor Goines Quartet at South On Main in Little Rock

C. Michael Bailey By

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The Victor Goines Quartet
2015-2016 Oxford American Jazz Series
Little Rock, AR
January 21, 2016

"Squarely in the Tradition..."

The downtown Little Rock restaurant and performance space, South on Main, is the place where the Oxford American [A Magazine of the South] goes 'from the page to the stage.' The venue closed the 2015 Oxford American Concert Series with a spirited folk romp by The Indigo Girls, and inaugurates the magazine's 2016 Jazz Series with an appearance by the Victor Goines Quartet. Goines, a multiple woodwinds player, is a longtime member of both Wynton Marsalis' renown septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, as well as the leader of his own quartet.

Goines and his quartet members: pianist Helen Sung, bassist Emma Dayhuff, and drummer Greg Artry made it to town just ahead of what passes for a snowstorm in Dixie, their after-show flight to Chicago cancelled, forcing the group to rent a van for a drive to Chicago, where the band was slated to appear at the Windy City's Music Institute of Chicago's Fifth Annual Jazz Festival. During the afternoon of the performance, the quartet provided master's classed in jazz at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, joined by prominent Little Rock-based bassists Bill Huntington, a Hurricane Katrina refugee (along with guitarist Ted Ludwig, who has appeared weekly at The Capitol Hotel Bar and Grill for the past decade) and Joe Vick, Ludwig's regular bassist. It is a tight-knit community among musicians, Huntington was one of Goines' teachers while in New Orleans and provided Emma Hayhuff the double bass for the Thursday night performance.

Straight-up 8:00 PM, the band took the stage, Goines selecting his soprano saxophone, lighting a post-bop fire with the Romberg / Hammerstein "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" (from the 1928 operetta The New Moon). Goines allowed all members ample solo space, with all trading eights to the coda. Goines revealed himself ever the educator both in performance and speech. The performance of "Sunrise" was the perfect exposition of jazz in performance. The band plays the piece straight for a chorus, to make sure the audience is paying attention, and then improvises to the original melody, reprised as the coda. Goines is urbane and approachable. He is vigilant in introducing the selections and providing a brief history.

For example, while introducing the much covered de Paul, Johnson, and Raye standard, "I'll Remember April," (from the 1942 Abbott and Costello comedy Ride 'Em Cowboy, Goines cites a single exceptional performance, that of the Clifford Brown and Max Roach recorded live at Chicago's Bee Hive Lounge, November 7, 1955. By doing this, Goines opens us up to a rarified world of music, that, while a light-year away, still informs all that that is done in jazz. Featured with Brown and Roach was the young tenor saxophonist, Sonny Rollins, who continues to amaze us today as the greatest living improviser. Goines' performance caroms off that of Brown into a straight-ahead juggernaut of tasty music.

The most obscure piece of the evening was Johnny Mandel's ballad "Emily." Goines initiates the ballad at tempo, providing a lengthy introduction that leads to an intense consideration of the song, one of Mandel's earliest compositions. After the performance, Goines gracefully and gratefully recognized his teacher, Bill Huntington, for the audience, bringing a hearty round of applause for the bassist. Goines followed "Emily" with Sonny Rollins' most famous contrafact of George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," "Oleo." Goines provides his evening master's class on tenor saxophone, bookending Rollins' masterpiece with another superb ballad, "Skylark."

Goines is a superb clarinetist, which he amply demonstrates on Thomas "Fats" Waller's famous "Jitterbug Waltz." The show closes with a soprano saxophone "Caravan" seguing into a temor-driven "Bebop" that is taken at quite a clip. In short, this was a perfect jazz set. It was not too long and the playing was beyond. Kudos to The Oxford American for bringing this stipe of jazz back to Little Rock.

The Victor Goines Quartet: Victor Goines: Tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet; Helen Sung: piano, Emma Dayhuff: bass, Greg Artry: Drums.

Setlist: Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise; I'll Remember April; Emily; Oleo; Skylark; Jitterbug Waltz; Caravan -Bebop.

Hand-in-hand with live shows are the compact discs for sale that accompany artist. Goines brought two such offerings a 2013 standards clarinet recital and a newly minted collection of originals on tenor and soprano saxophones, both recorded as a quartet.

Victor Goines
Morning Swing
Rosemary Joseph Records


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