Roots CD Review

At only 21 years of age, Alex Goodman shows the world why he's a force to be reckoned with in the Canadian jazz scene with his first jazz CD, "Roots".

"Without question, one of the most gifted guitarists of his generation," said Tim Ries of the Rolling Stones after hearing Alex Goodman perform. Together with Jonathan Kay on saxophone, Justin Gray on bass and Josh Park on drums, they form The Alex Goodman Quartet.

Alex Goodman - A Rising Star

Alex Goodman is a Canadian jazz guitarist, pianist and composer. He studied jazz performance at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University before transferring to the University of Toronto where he attended on a full scholarship. He has received numerous awards and accolades including a Banff Program for Jazz and Creative Music merit award, recognition as a CBC/Galaxie 2008 “Rising Star.” He studied performance and composition with international jazz greats Ben Monder, Wayne Krantz, Jim McNeely, Rich Perry, Tim Ries and Ethan Iverson.

He composed and played on the soundtrack for the award winning film Goodbye Rosebud which was screened at the Cannes’ Film Festival. He also wrote, arranged and performed all music for Reality Check, a TV film that aired nationally on Global in 2007.

Alex has performed in Canada, Thailand, India, Spain and the United States.

Roots - An Analysis

Bloom is a catchy track that alternates between a charming jazz waltz and an quick Latin groove. Jonathan Kay keeps up with the switches styles ably, maintaining a full and warm tone on the tenor sax. Alex Goodman demonstrates his technical precision by throwing in rapid rhythms that switch gears from one style to the next in the blink of an eye in his jazz improvisation.

The Cantus begins with a punchy rhythm played by the drums and bass. The piano and alto sax soon join in with a quick, highly syncopated melody. The saxophone solo fires up and down the register as the rest of the combo maintains punchy comping rhythms.

Things slow down a bit with Validation, which has a soulful feel like Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk. It gains a bit of momentum by the 1:00 mark. The piano solo uses classical-style sequences with jazz harmonies and steadily kicks up the momentum another notch with some rapid flourishes. The bass solo, in contrast, is calmer and introspective. The sax matches the gentle tone at first and then builds the intensity, gradually moving higher up the range. The drums play around with rhythms, starting simple and then getting more complicated, before easing back.

Recordame is a Joe Henderson classic. Its bossa roots aren't as evident in this version. This is also the first track on the CD to feature the guitar, which really does change the tone of the piece. The use of the guitar and the alto sax give this track an easy-going feel.

Nihilism contains some bebop melodic shaping but keeps things at an easygoing tempo - at first. The solos quickly push the mood from calm to excited. The interplay of the combo during the sax solo complemented the sax without stepping on the solo.

Out of Nowhere is another laid back track. The saxophone's range is explored in depth during the solo. The guitar solo is very "scat-able".

Perito Moreno begins with a fast bebop groove in the bass and drums. The sax truly lets loose with some virtuosic passages that fly high and low during the solo. The piano solo is filled with syncopation and rapid passages. The bass and drums maintain the intensity with their driving lines.

The final track, Winter, is slow and dreamy, like Vince Guaraldi's Christmastime is Here. It opens with just the piano and a gentle brush groove by the drums. The head, played by the sax is sultry and melancholic, while the bass continues with an pensive solo. The piano solo incorporates some rhythms and harmonies reminiscent of Impressionist music but maintains the calm feel.

Roots Track Listing

  1. Bloom (A. Goodman)
  2. The Cantus (A. Goodman)
  3. Validation (A. Goodman)
  4. Recordame (J. Henderson)
  5. Nihilism (A. Goodman)
  6. Out of Nowhere (J. Green/ E. Heyman)
  7. Perito Moreno (A. Goodman)
  8. Winter (A. Goodman)

Produced by: Alex Goodman

Recorded with: Central Audio Productions

Released: 2007

Roots - The Verdict

Roots is a solid debut CD, showcasing the versatility of this jazz combo as well as Goodman's compositional style. Their cohesion is pretty tight and it's hard to believe that these young jazz musicians are barely into their 20's. Alex Goodman and Jonathan Kay truly shine in this CD. However, as able as Justin Gray and Josh Park were, it would have been nice to hear them really let loose. Perhaps in their next CD.

Since releasing Roots, The Alex Goodman Quartet has become The Alex Goodman Quintet. To find out more about Alex Goodman visit his website and his MySpace page.

Although Roots doesn't appear to be available, the jazz combo's latest album, Bridges is. It was nominated for a 2013 JUNO Award for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year. Alex Goodman is currently pursuing his Masters in Music at the Manhattan School of Music.

Originally published on Suite101 on December 21, 2009. Updated March 11, 2013. All rights reserved by Rhona-Mae Arca.