Brandon Goldberg

In Good Time
(Self Release)

This piano prodigy, who recently scored a hat-trick in winning all three categories in the junior-high division of DownBeat’s annual Student Music Awards, should be commended for recording his sophomore album well before his sophomore year of high school. But call it anything but sophomoric, for Goldberg, at 15, is already in possession of gifts many fail to ever acquire: an unassailable technique, advanced harmonic understanding, a deep sense of swing and, most impressively, a clarity and plethora of ideas executed to near-perfection.

The young artist has been given every chance to succeed with well-seasoned sidemen, led by the late, great drummer-mentor Ralph Peterson, with bassist Luques Curtis, saxophonist Stacy Dillard and trumpeter Josh Evans. Of course, any teenage basketball player might fare well if inserted into the starting five of the Los Angeles Lakers, yet Goldberg shoots from the hip with creativity and confidence as he comps assertively behind the horns, spars rhythmically with Peterson and even takes a few dangerous but enthralling risks. His original works affirm the hard-bop tradition of Peterson’s mentor Art Blakey, especially the uptempo burner “Ninety-Six,” where Goldberg’s virtuosity shines.

If any criticism is to be levied, it might be that Goldberg draws too much on past and current masters. But given how many in his age group are posting bad copycat renditions of hip-hop dance moves on TikTok, we should feel some charity toward the youngster, along with anticipation of an impending realization of his true, artistic self.