Trail Scouting or the Expulsion from the Paradise of Music
Purely eclectic! Something that has always made jazz what it is. That’s how the Geoff Goodman Quintet presents itself on their second album ‘Tall Tales & Dreams’. The musical language of the band leader is universal – a kind of musical Esperanto – in the best sense of the term. Stylistic categories or walking their planks aren’t Geoff Goodman’s thing, it’s the intersections of the history of jazz that he finds more exciting. And those who decide to trust the scout will not need to regret it. Sometimes you’re beside him in a Ferrari, sometimes in a vintage car – no vehicle, nor carriage seems alien to him.
Goodman understands how to sift archetypes generic to jazz through his own inner sensibility, to transform yet not diminish these, to distil them into his own individual form of expression. He has something to say and doesn’t make a secret of it, he spans worlds lightly, from the fairytale to nightmare. Nor is it merely about personal benefits that enable him to burgeon on his guitar, that would be far too negligible for him – no, it’s about the entire band, conceived of as multi-instrumental means of expression: his instrument. This is what makes for Geoff’s greatness, raising him above the ordinary, this brings him a little closer to the great band leaders of jazz.
The transmission bands between his creative mind and his fellow musicians are his brilliant compositions and complex arrangements, that not only intelligently highlight the strengths of his colleagues, but also marvellously revive that primal collective improvisation of nascent jazz: sparks fly with communicative whim and wit! Rudi Mahall – that virtuoso on the bass clarinet – brightly lights up the quintet with his solos. The other soloists follow suit, not willing to settle for less and surpass themselves. Yet the moving principle of reduction to essentials prevails, as against overflowing solos and worn out ‘chops’ rummaged out of the old jazz school chest-of-drawers.
Not unexpectedly, a lot of this music originates from Ornette, Monk or Mingus, but Goodman only lets them peep round a corner in the style of an old fox. All the historical traces on the trail are regenerated in his own ideas and then ground through a creative mill. What comes out is for instance the somewhat burlesque piece Fifth Chromosome: Everything seems to be rolling along the tracks of the old Ornette when suddenly, recited lyrics make the horizon expand unexpectedly; part tongue-in-cheek, part serious - or mock-heroic - the epic rhetoric of Homeric verse is recycled to describe that curious Trans-Atlantic scattering of seed, the phenomenon of Diaspora. Or even that old swing time hit Stompin’ at the Savoy, which he paradoxically seems to have taken the swing dimension out of, in that he simply does without a rhythm section. The front line comprising the guitar and the two horns create a firework of sound, letting a sort of butterfly burst out in splendid colours, sometimes resting briefly on an exotic patina, sometimes intently soaring up into un-guessed shimmering heights.
‘Geoff’s World’, his musicological language could be broken down into musical hieroglyphs running through almost all the eleven titles on the album. Or better still, should one begin to discover ones own creative resources, to trust ones own creative impulses, then this music becomes an ideal projection screen, like an idiosyncratic trail scouting of ones own. That this is also about being driven out of a musical paradise is somewhat uncomfortable at first glance, yet one neither loses on road grip, nor the challenge.
Let’s not forget, the Geoff Goodman Quintet has become something fascinating over the last few years. The band’s potential comprises far more than its individuals, its musicians, whose names in any case read like a Who’s Who of the central European jazz scene. A complex balance between form and improvisation, control and spontaneous impulse has come about. More and more a scarcity on the current scene, this is in the meantime also an unmistakeable element of this quintet’s sound. This is not just meant as a compliment to the band leader and composer - the material is worth more.