By James Hale | Published January 2018
Toronto native Alex Goodman turned heads when he won the international guitar competition at the 2014 Montreux Jazz Festival. Now 30 and a New York resident since 2012, his second album brims with stylistic feints but lacks any defining unity.
For example, there is little to connect the pretty melody and ethereal voice-and-saxophone unison theme of “Apprehension” to the heavily processed, scalar guitar and distorted Rhodes on “Empty.” Nor much to make you think that the unadorned guitar on “Questions” belongs to the same musician as the one playing the abstract introduction to “Heightened.” Reedist Matt Marantz introduces an EWI on “The First Break,” creating a somewhat grating contrast to the fluid lyricism of Goodman’s guitar that precedes it. The EWI returns on the multi-faceted “Sharon,” which makes the transition from a wistful, unaccompanied piano to a Spanish-tinged tempo and a rollicking closing section. That kind of rhythmic variety is a signature of Goodman’s writing, and he frequently uses fellow Torontonian Felicity Williams’ pure, breathy voice to create an atmospheric upper end or double Marantz’s saxophone.
Second Act: Questions; The First Break; Departure; Losing Cool Introduction; Losing Cool; Empty; Heightened; Sharon; Welcome To New York; Apprehension; Acrobat. (74:00)
Personnel: Alex Goodman, guitar; Matt Marantz, saxophones, EWI; Eden Ladin, piano, Fender Rhodes, organ; Rick Rosato, bass; Jimmy Macbride, drums; Felicity Williams, Alex Samaras, vocals (5–8, 10, 11).