Pianist Aaron Goldberg is a consistently nuanced player who can find a vein in swing on nearly every composition he plays, which gives his trio recording, The Now, a leg up on the competition. A tremendous improviser, Goldberg has crafted an accessible album of songs with smooth curves and sharp corners.
The album demonstrates Goldberg’s heady romanticism, culled from his favorite Brazilian love songs, along with wonderfully obscure jazz tracks by Charlie Parker and Warne Marsh and his own compelling, introspective originals.
His extraordinary collaborators for the past sixteen years, bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer/percussionist Eric Harland, are exquisitely tuned to the pianist’s range and depth of feeling.
The trio leads with “Trocando Em Miudos,” a heartfelt tune by Chico Buarque (a much beloved Brazilian poet, lyricist and singer) with a lush, bittersweet melody that’s highlighted by Harland’s subtle plays on the snare. The fast turns that outline the Parker tune (“Perhaps”) is a dazzler, where Goldberg plays the theme slightly faster with one hand and slower with the other, the trio underscoring its meter with deft improvisation. Tunes by Djavan and Toninho Horta keep the band in the southern hemisphere with modern, earthy arrangements.
Like a gust of wind, Goldberg fits more notes into the speedball tempo of “Background Music,” the most energetic track off The Now. It’s the odd tune out and not indicative of the recording, but it stands out as a thrilling high-wire act combining technical fireworks with a giddy display of Goldberg’s virtuosity.
A reunion takes place on “One Life,” the closer and a highly personal Goldberg original where guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel sits in. Goldberg was Rosenwinkel’s former pianist (The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard), and the trio’s interplay, paired with the guitarist’s ethereal playing, gives the track a futuristic patina that unfolds like a dream. (10 tracks; 53 minutes)