Eric Goletz Plays Standards

1 - Goletz - Stanard-ized

PARKER: Now’s the Time. STYNE-COMDEN: Just in Time. TIZOL-ELLINGTON-MILLS: Caravan. SILVER: Nutville. Jungle Juice. Mayreh. AHBEZ: Nature Boy. HARRELL: Train Shuffle. LEGRAND: The Summer Knows. Windmills of Your Mind. GERSHWIN-HEYWARD: Summertime. TURRENTINE: Sugar. WONDER: Overjoyed. PARKER: Now’s the Time: Outro / Eric Goletz, tb/pno; Don Braden, s-sax; Jim Ridl, pno; Henry Heinitsh, el-gtr; Brian Glassman, bs/el-bs/contrabass; Steve Johns, dm; Joe Mowatt, perc; Lajuan Carter, voc; Robin Zeh, Paul Woodiel, vln; Michael Roth, David Gold, vla; Sarah Hewitt-Roth, cel / Consolidated Artists Publications CAP-1073

Eric Goletz, a noted West Coast trombonist-composer, presents his take on a number of pop and jazz standards on this disc scheduled for release on February 23. Goletz explained that the origin of this CD was a casual, cocktail-hour gig where he was “told to play whatever we wanted, so we decided to just have fun and pick tunes that he wanted to blow on.” The result was so successful that Goletz arranged four of them and had them recorded. The rest of the album just sort of followed.

While I really enjoyed this album, I have a major complaint. It would be nice if either Goletz or CAP Records would have been considerate enough to list the COMPOSERS OF THE SONGS. Personally, I thought this was not only industry standard but a legal requirement. In my case it was quite annoying since I didn’t know six of the tunes on this disc, and thus had to chase all over the Internet to try to find out who wrote what…and, as it turns out, there are more than one songs named “Sugar” and “Overjoyed,” so if I got the wrong accreditation it’s Goletz’ fault, not mine.

But there is no complaint about the high quality of these arrangements or, particularly, of Goletz’ solo playing. He is, undisputedly, the best modern jazz trombonist I’ve ever heard. Between his phenomenal chops and his highly inventive improvisations, he even leaves such legendary names as J.J. Johnson or Jimmy Knepper—both superb players, I’m not demeaning them—in the dust. And just because these pieces are not originals by Goletz doesn’t mean that his composer’s mind is not at work. Just listen to the way he re-writes Charlie Parker’s Now’s the Time, changing the harmonies to make them shift upwards and downwards using both whole and half-tone changes upwards and downwards. Goletz’ solo on this one is simply astounding, incorporating “outside” changes within the basic framework of the tune’s changes. Soprano saxist Don Braden, though quite good, plays in a much simpler, funk-inspired style even his chase chorus with Goletz. Pianist Jim Ridl plays in a nice single-note style drawing a bit on Tristano, and guitarist Henry Heinitsch also has a nice style. But one has to be honest, and the truth is that Goletz is head and shoulders above his bandmates in musical invention. His tone is not as full as those of Johnson or Knepper, in part because in order to play with this kind of fleetness he has to keep the breath pressure light so that he can use both lips and slide to get all those complex figures in, but what he plays is just stunning.

It’s also nice, for a change, to hear the bass and drums really swing and not try to play such rhythmically complex figures that one is constantly trying to figure out exactly what rhythm they’re playing in in relation to the rest of the band. Ridl makes a more challenging partner for Goletz in his chase chorus here, and bassist Brian Glassman is no slouch on his instrument, playing a nice solo with some bent notes.

Goletz completely rewrites Juan Tizol’s Caravan in a way I’v never heard from anyone else before, creating a single-note piano line in the bass and shifting the rhythm around, even adding an extra couple of bars here and there. This is the first track on which he uses the strings, and although they don’t play very complex figures, he again has them scored in an interesting way, using shifting chords. When Ridl begins his solo chorus, we suddenly switch to a straight 4 to accompany his single-note playing, followed by Heinitsch (whose guitar, I swear to you, almost sounds like those wonderful hollow-body electrics of the Eddie Durham-Charlie Christian era).  There’s a brief but nice three-way passage including Goletz, Ridl and Heinitsch before a return to the funky beat of the opening.

As noted earlier, I’m not all that familiar with these Horace Silver tunes (I like his playing but don’t own all that many of his records), but once again Goletz gets them to swing and adds some interesting changes. Heinitsch platys a really excellent solo on this one. Although I’ve always liked Eden Ahbez’ Nature Boy, I could have lived without the pathetic “singing” of one Lajuan Carter (sorry, I don’t care how many R&B artists she has backed) or the soporific whole-tone string writing. Goletz’ solo, a good but not a great one, is the only attraction on this tune. Despite a good arrangement and some very fine solos, I didn’t think much of Jungle Juice as a piece, even in Goletz’ fine arrangement. Mayreh, on the other hand, is a nice swinging tune played with just the right light touch (and more fine solos), but The Summer Knows is a real drippy piece that sounds like elevator music. And so the album goes.

Bottom line: This is a nice album with some truly outstanding tracks and a few weak ones, though consistently interesting for Goletz’ playing.

—© 2022 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz



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