I’ve heard a number of masterful young pianists recently, and here’s another one. Like any perceptive keyboard artist, Aaron Goldberg writes poetry with his fingertips, evoking the same feelings of warmth and desire, sadness and joy that are common to the written or spoken word. Unfolding, Goldberg’s second J Curve album, consists of seven of his compositions, John Coltrane’s “Equinox” and Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” It’s a picturesque and eventful journey on which he’s accompanied and inspired by longtime friends and associates Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Goldberg, as we observed in a review of his first album, Turning Point, “plays with remarkable maturity and insight for one so relatively young” (he’s still in his mid–20s) — and it should be noted that he writes that way too; his compositions are as bright and sophisticated as they are charming and accessible. They include ballads (“If and Only If,” the brief but lovely “Todd’s Dream,” “Second Chance”), blues (“Isabella Meets Wally,” “MAO’s Blues”) and captivating tone poems (“Sea Shantey,” “P.B. & J.”). Goldberg does “wonders” with “Sunshine,” approaching the familiar melody from an acute angle before turning it into a quasi–bossa, while “Equinox,” the “first payment in an eternal debt to the composer,” is treated respectfully, almost reverentially, which is as it should be. Rogers has a tasteful solo there, as he does on “Isabella Meets Wally,” while Harland unlimbers the heavy artillery to converse with Goldberg on “MAO’s Blues.” When not soloing, Rogers and Harlend give Goldberg a spacious comfort zone in which to maneuver, and there are no audible lapses by any of them. As was the case with Turning Point, the studio session is quite well recorded with remarkable clarity and balance, but the 48:24 playing time is less commendable. Aside from that small complaint, a marvelous second album by an exceptionally talented young musician.
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