ARTIST: ESPERANZA SPALDING
ALBUM: CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY
RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 17, 2010
RELEASE # HUI-31810-02
LABEL: HEADS UP INTERNATIONAL, A DIVISION OF CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
ALBUM PRESS RELEASE
ESPERANZA SPALDING'S PROFILE
If “esperanza” is the Spanish word for hope, then bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. Blessed with uncanny instrumental chops, a multi-lingual voice that is part angel and part siren, and a natural beauty that borders on the hypnotic, the prodigy-turned-pro might well be the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.
Spalding was born and raised on what she calls “the other side of the tracks” in a multi-lingual household and neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in a single-parent home amid economically adverse circumstances, she learned early lessons in the meaning of perseverance and moral character from the role model whom she holds in the highest regard to this day – her mother.
But even with a rock-solid role model, school did not come easy to Spalding, although not for any lack of intellectual acumen. She was both blessed and cursed with a highly intuitive learning style that often put her at odds with the traditional education system. On top of that, she was shut in by a lengthy illness as a child, and as a result, was home-schooled for a significant portion of her elementary school years. In the end, she never quite adjusted to learning by rote in the conventional school setting.
“It was just hard for me to fit into a setting where I was expected to sit in a room and swallow everything that was being fed to me,” she recalls. “Once I figured out what it was like to be home-schooled and basically self-taught, I couldn’t fit back into the traditional environment.”
However, the one pursuit that made sense to Spalding from a very early age was music. At age four, after watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the roadmap was suddenly very clear. “That was when I realized that I wanted to do something musical,” she says. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit.”
Within a year, she had essentially taught herself to play the violin well enough to land a spot in The Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a community orchestra that was open to both children and adult musicians. She stayed with the group for ten years, and by age 15, she had been elevated to a concertmaster position.
But by then, she had also discovered the bass, and all of the non-classical avenues that the instrument could open for her. Suddenly, playing classical music in a community orchestra wasn’t enough for this young teenager anymore. Before long she was playing blues, funk, hip-hop and a variety of other styles on the local club circuit. “The funny thing was, I was the songwriter, but I had never experienced love before. Being the lyricist and the lead singer, I was making up songs about red wagons, toys and other childish interests. No one knew what I was singing about, but they liked the sound of it and they just ate it up.”
At 16, Spalding left high school for good. Armed with her GED and aided by a generous scholarship, she enrolled in the music program at Portland State University. “I was definitely the youngest bass player in the program,” she says. “I was 16, and I had been playing the bass for about a year and a half. Most of the cats in the program had already had at least eight years of training under their belts, and I was trying to play in these orchestras and do these Bach cello suites. It wasn’t really flying, but if nothing else, my teachers were saying, ‘Okay, she does have talent.’”
Berklee College of Music was the place where the pieces all came together and doors started opening. After a move to the opposite coast and three years of accelerated study, she not only earned a B.M., but also signed on as an instructor in 2005 at the age of 20 – an appointment that has made her the youngest faculty member in the history of the college. She was the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship.
In addition to the studying and the teaching, the Berklee years also created a host of networking opportunities with several notable artists, including pianist Michel Camilo, vibraphonist Dave Samuels, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Patti Austin, and saxophonists Donald Harrison and Joe Lovano. “Working with Joe was terrifying,” she recalls, “but he’s a really generous person. I don’t know if I was ready for the gig or not, but he had a lot of faith in me. It was an amazing learning experience.”
Spalding’s journey as a solo artist began with the May 2008 release of Esperanza, her debut recording for Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, which went on to become the best selling album by a new jazz artist internationally in 2008. The highly acclaimed release was the first opportunity for a worldwide audience to witness her mesmerizing talents as an instrumentalist, vocalist and composer. The New York Times raved, “Esperanza has got a lot: accomplished jazz improvisation, funk, scat singing, Brazilian vernacular rhythm and vocals in English, Portuguese and Spanish. At its center is a female bassist, singer and bandleader, one whose talent is beyond question.”
Soon after release, Esperanza went straight to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart where it remained for over 70 weeks. Spalding was booked on the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the CBS Saturday Early Show, the Tavis Smiley Show, Austin City Limits and National Public Radio. Other highlights included two appearances at the White House, a Banana Republic ad campaign, the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2009 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year, the 2009 JazzWeek Award for Record of the Year, and many high profile tour dates, including Central Park SummerStage in New York and the Newport Jazz Festival. 2009 was capped by an invitation from President Obama to perform at both the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway – where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded – and also at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.
And as well as being on the road with her own band, Esperanza has toured with Joe Lovano, and has also performed with pianist McCoy Tyner.
In early 2010, Spalding was the subject of an in-depth profile in The New Yorker, she was also featured in the May 2010 Anniversary issue of O, The Oprah Magazine’s “Women on the Rise” (in a fashion spread that features portraits of 10 women who are making a difference in various careers), and she was again nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association for their 2010 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year.
If Esperanza marked a brilliant beginning for this gifted young artist, then Spalding’s August 2010 release, Chamber Music Society, sets her on an upward trajectory to prominence. Inspired by the classical training of her younger years, Spalding has created a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is a sound that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical chamber music traditions. Co-produced by Esperanza and Gil Goldstein (with string arrangements provided by both), Chamber Music Society finds Esperanza with a diverse assembly of musicians: pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, percussionist Quintino Cinalli, guitarist Ricardo Vogt, and vocalists Gretchen Parlato and the legendary Milton Nascimento. The string trio is comprised of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin and cellist David Eggar.
Esperanza has presented this album with a number of tours across the USA and Europe, as well as travelling to Japan to play at the Blue Note club in Tokyo and also down to the Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa. The album has also been supported with TV appearances on the top American late night chat shows, such as David Letterman and Jay Leno.
On Februrary 13th 2011 in Los Angeles, Esperanza received one of the music industry’s most prestigious prizes, the Grammy for Best New Artist. As Esperanza later said, she was surprised and also grateful to receive this award. It had been a very special day, as earlier on Esperanza has cohosted the pre-telecast with Bobby McFerrin and also performed with the Grammy Jazz Ensemble.
After her Spring European tour, Esperanza will return to the studio whereshe will continue recording her next album, Radio Music Society.
BASSIST, VOCALIST AND COMPOSER ESPERANZA SPALDING
PRESENTS CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY,
A BRILLIANT MARRIAGE OF STRING AND JAZZ TRIO WITH VOCALS
Release Weaves Elements Of Jazz, Folk And World Music With Classical Traditions
Centuries ago, long before the advent of radio or recording technology, chamber music was the music for the masses – the music in which people from nearly every segment of society could find meaning and relevance. A decade into the 21st century, Esperanza Spalding – the bassist, vocalist and composer who first appeared on the jazz scene in 2008 – takes a contemporary approach to this once universal form of entertainment with Chamber Music Society, her August 17, 2010, release on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group.
Backed by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and pianist Leo Genovese – and inspired by the classical training of her younger years – Esperanza creates a modern chamber music group that combines the spontaneity and intrigue of improvisation with sweet and angular string trio arrangements. The result is a sound that weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical music.
“So much of my early musical experience was spent playing chamber music on the violin, and it’s a form of music that I’ve always loved,” says Esperanza. “I was very inspired by a lot of classical music, and chamber music in particular. I’m intrigued by the concept of intimate works that can be played and experienced among friends in an intimate setting. So I decided to create my version of contemporary chamber music, and add one more voice to that rich history.”
Chamber Music Society is a place where connoisseurs of classical music and jazz devotees – and fans of other musics as well – can find common ground. The recording offers a chamber music for modern times – one that brings together people of different perspectives and broadens their cultural experience, just as it did in an earlier age.
Esperanza first took the world by storm in 2008 with her self-titled Heads Up debut recording that spent more than 70 weeks on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. Two years later, she continues to push the boundaries of jazz and explore the places where it intersects with other genres. Co-produced by Esperanza and Gil Goldstein, Chamber Music Society surrounds Esperanza with a diverse assembly of musicians. At the core are pianist Leo Genovese, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and percussionist Quintino Cinalli. The string trio is comprised of violinist Entcho Todorov, violist Lois Martin, cellist David Eggar and Gretchen Parlato on voice. The great Milton Nascimento also makes a guest appearance on one track.
“Gil is really a master at integrating a sound that caters to string instruments,” says Esperanza. “I’ve learned so much from working with him, and I’ve gained confidence in my abilities as an arranger and producer as well.”
The set opens with “Little Fly,” a quiet and melodic piece in which Esperanza sets a poem by William Blake to music. Throughout the piece, Esperanza’s vocals merge seamlessly with her own bass as well as the string trio that surrounds it.
Inspired by the creation story in the Old Testament, the multi-layered and structurally intriguing “Knowledge of Good and Evil” was actually written several years ago, Esperanza explains. She later wrote a preliminary string arrangement for the work, which Goldstein later embellished. “The song is very circular, and the transitions between the emotions captured in the major and minor parts are intentionally ambiguous,” says Esperanza. “The melody doesn’t allow you to catch them, even though it repeats itself. It’s like the story of the Garden of Eden. The openness to many different interpretations is what makes it so compelling.”
The taut and percussive “Really Very Small” is another piece from Esperanza’s vault of earlier material that derives new life from a string arrangement she subsequently added to it. “As I remember, the song came out of me all at once when I wrote it,” she says. “When you play it on piano, it’s a little funky harmonically, but it lays in a logical way. I was listening to a lot of world music around that time, and I was interested in the idea of having two time signatures in the same song. The melody is basically in 6/8, and it sits on top of this 7/8 accompaniment.”
The lilting “Apple Blossom,” featuring the legendary Milton Nascimento is reminiscent of a folk song. “The challenge in arranging this song was integrating the strings into the piece, but in such a way as to keep them from taking over – allowing them to be part of the work, but not in the way of it,” says Esperanza. “Milton is one of my musical heroes. He’s always inspired me to follow my own voice, in terms of writing, singing and playing. If there’s anyone who’s close to what I want to be musically, it would be him. I feel like this record is blessed because of his presence and contribution.”
In the final stretch, “Inútil Paisagem” is built around a gentle but complex vocal interplay between Esperanza and Gretchen Parlato, with little more than a repeating bass line and Parlato’s subtle hand percussion to underscore the dual voices. The quiet and poignant “Short and Sweet,” lays Esperanza’s vocals in a lush bed of piano and strings, resulting in a dreamlike experience that ends the set on an almost mystical note.
But this is no dream. It is the work of a brilliant young musical talent who isn’t afraid to challenge the limits of jazz and its relationship to other forms of musical expression. Chamber Music Society is the first of two current Esperanza projects. Radio Music Society, set for release in the spring of 2011, features an exciting new repertoire of funk, hip-hop, and rock elements fused into songs that are free from genre.
“I’m confident that this music will touch people,” she says of Chamber Music Society. “We all want to hear sincerity and originality in music, and anyone can recognize and appreciate when love and truth are transmitted through art. No matter what else has or hasn’t been achieved on this recording, those things are definitely a part of this music. Those are the things I really want to deliver.”
LEO GENOVESE (Piano, Rhodes and Melodic)
Leonardo Genovese was born in Venado Tuerto, Argentina in 1979.
After some years of studying classical piano at the National University of Rosario as well as private lessons in contemporary music, he moved to Boston in 2001. He started his career at Berklee College of Music where he studied with Danilo Perez, Joanne Brackeen and Frank Carlberg, among others.
Leo graduated as a Professional Music Major in 2003 and has been constantly performing and recording with talented musicians such us Hal Crook, Darren Barrett, George Garzone, Francisco Mela, Joe Lovano, Bob Gulloti, Phil Grenadier, Dave Santoro, Chris Cheek and Ben Monder.
In 2004, he released his first solo album entitled Haikus II signed by Spanish label Fresh Sound Records. Leo has his own project "leo genovese and the chromatic gauchos" which will be recording a new album in earlier 2007.
He also performs regularly with the Esperanza Spalding Group, the Mike tucker Quartet, Planet Safety (w/Bob Gullotti and Dave Zinno) and Hal Crook every Tuesday at AS220 in Providence.
TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON (drums)
Drummer, composer, producer and clinician. After an extensive touring career of over 20 years with luminaries like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Cassandra Wilson, Clark Terry, Dianne Reeves and more, she recently returned to her hometown where she was appointed professor at her alma mater, Berklee College of Music. Terri Lyne also received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music in 2003.
Terri Lyne has played on many recordings throughout the 80's and 90's thru today. Notable examples of her work include Herbie Hancock's Grammy winning CD "Gershwin's World" where she played alongside Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder. She has toured with each of Mr. Hancock's musical configurations (from electric to acoustic) over the last 10 years and is featured on his "Future2Future" DVD.
QUINTINO CINALLI (Percussion, Candombe Drums and Bombo Leguero)
Quintino Cinalli was born in Venado Tuerto, in Argentina in 1964. Since the 80s, he has lived in Buenos Aires, Chile, Uruguay and New York. Nowadays he lives between Argentina and USA. He is one of the most versatile Latin American drummers.
His own style is based in a mixture of the Argentinean folklore roots and international ones. From his career it is worth naming his personal attitude and his unmistakable style.
He has toured and recorded with great artists such as Airto Moreira, Trilok Gurtu, Pedro Aznar, Pablo Ziegler, Hugo Fattoruso, Rubén Rada, Alphonso Jhonson, Dino Saluzzi, Mercedes Sosa, among others. Since 2003, he manages his own project. A trio that mixes different styles such as Rock, Jazz and popular Argentinean music. They are constantly trying with new tendencies, and he is especially interested in old traditions.
ENTCHO TODOROV (Violin)
Bulgarian violinist Entcho Todorov is a classically trained musician currently touring with soul legend Diana Ross. He also performs Balkan folk music with virtuoso accordionist Ivan Milev.
Entcho has toured with Hall & Oates and Sheryl Crow, and has appeared on stage with Mary J. Blige, Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Rod Steward, Josh Groban, among others.
He has recorded for the soundtracks of the Oscar-winning movie Precious and Liev Schreiber’s directorial debut Everything Is Illuminated. Entcho has played on albums for Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Antibalas, Kelly Clarkson, Melissa Newman, among others.
On Broadway, Entcho was resident violinist for Shrek: The Musical, Legally Blonde: The Musical, Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, Fiddler on the Roof (as the fiddler on stage), and The Immigrant: A New American Musical.
Entcho is a master performer of Balkan folk music, playing throughout the U.S. with Ivan Milev Band and on the band’s record The Flight of Krali Marco.
LOIS MARTIN (Viola)
Lois Martin, violist, grew up on a Turkey farm near York, Penna. After graduation from the Eastman School of Music, she moved to New York for graduate studies at the Juillard School. She has to her credit more than 65 chamber music recordings, mostly of contemporary music and has also recorded with artists including Michael Brecker, Chris Potter, John Zorn, Daniel Schnyder, and Gil Goldstein. She has recently played concerts with Sting, Ornette Coleman, Elton John, and Shirley Bassey. She has toured throughout Europe, Poland, Russia, Great Britain, South America, Australia, China, and Japan.
DAVID EGGAR (Cello / solo on “Chacarera” and “Wild Is the Wind)
A virtuoso of many styles, Dave Eggar debuted in Carnegie Hall at 15 as the youngest winner in the history of the Artists International competition.
He has appeared throughout the world as a classical soloist, including concerto appearances at Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, London’s Barbican Center, the Paris Opera, and the Hollywood Bowl. Eggar has performed and recorded with countless artists, including the Who,
Michael Brecker, Dave Sanborn, Ornette Coleman, Ruggierro Ricci, Roberta Flack, Phil Ramone, Abbey Lincoln, Luciano, Sly and Robbie, Dianne Reeves, Manhattan Transfer, Carly Simon, Sinéad O'Connor, Kathleen Battle, Bebel Gilberto, Chris Potter, Gil Goldstein, Eugenia Zuckerman, Lyfe Jennings and Corinne Bailey Rae. Dave was also a founding member of the FLUX quartet, and has premiered over 100 works of contemporary music including pieces by Frank Zappa, Charles Ives, John Cage, Conlon Nancarrow, Elliott Sharp, Ornette Coleman, John Pattitucci, Oliver Lake and, Morton Feldman, Sir Harrison Birtwhistle and Augusta Read Thomas.
MILTON NASCIMENTO (Voice on “Apple Blossom”)
Milton Nascimento took his first steps towards being a crooner at dance parties in the south of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Recognition of the public came to him in 1967, when he won Best Interpretation at the Second International Song Festival, with Travessia. After that, his albums made their marks, influencing generations of musicians in Brazil and around the world and resulted in the creation of a new category of music: World Music. “It was funny because we would perform abroad, and the critics weren’t able to categorize me as one style or another, like jazz, MPB, samba,...so they began to put me into the “World Music” category.
But, wherever he went, Milton never stopped singing the iconic songs for which he was famous. “When people come to my show, even if we present new things, I never fail to sing certain songs because I know that people want to hear them. Beyond old hits, Milton also includes more-recent compositions composed with friends both old and new performs the works of other composers, putting his own special touch on the repertoire with every presentation.
He received anthologies of sound tracks for movies, theater pieces, and ballets, hundreds of prizes and awards, as well as Grammies and so many others.
GRETCHEN PARLATO (Voice on “Inútil Paisagem” and “Knowledge Of Good And Evil”)
Gretchen Parlato’s voice is a thing of wonder. Striking the ideal balance between precision and flexibility, she is never predictable, blurring the lines between singer and instrumentalist as she takes a lyric to places it’s never before been. As evidenced on her 2009 top running CD In A
Dream which Jazz Times calls “utterly, unfailingly mesmerizing”, Parlato displays what Herbie Hancock describes as a "deep, almost magical connection to the music". Billboard Magazine has announced the CD as “The most alluring jazz vocal album of 2009 and NPR counts it as among “The Years Best New Jazz” releases.
Both Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter became fans when Parlato was studying at The Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz Studies. Shorter has said, "in an inconspicuous way, Gretchen plays the same instrument as Frank Sinatra." Since winning the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Competition for Jazz Vocals, Parlato has recorded and performed with Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueké, Sean Jones, DJ Khalil, and Cut Chemist among others. She tours regularly with her band in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia.
RICARDO VOGT Guitar on “Apple Blossom”
With a Brazilian groove that will catch anyone’s attention, Ricardo Vogt is grabbing everyone’s ears. Born in Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil, Vogt was fortunate to grow up surrounded by music. Enthralled by the sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina, it wan’t any surprise at all that this young talent took a liking to Bossa Nova, samba, and the guitar.
During his time at Berklee, Ricardo became an endorser for Godin guitars and has had the honor of performing with incredible musicians, including Rosa Passos and Eliane Elias. Upon hearing Ricardo, Eliane Elias hired him on the spot. Now as a member of her quartet, Ricardo tours around the world and has performed at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Madrid Jazz Festival and the Dinant Jazz Festival along side Toots Thielemans. Ricardo has also recorded on Eliane’s recent album 'Bossa Nova Stories', on Blue Note Records. Another venture for Vogt is his new role as guitar player for Esperanza Spalding's Quartet.
Apart from his roles with Eliane and Esperanza, Vogt’s main project is a duet with jazz vocalist and trumpet player Leala Cyr. A unique combination of voices, guitar and trumpet create their rare duet. Together since 2002, Vogt and Cyr have been arranging everything from Duke Ellington, to Antonio Carlos Jobim, to Guinga.
For nearly four decades, pianist/producer/arranger Gil Goldstein has drawn the musical blueprint for some of the most prominent artists in jazz – and in so doing, has become a highly influential figure in his own right. Gifted with an innate sense of compositional structure and harmonic balance, he has forged a diverse career that extends well beyond his own body of recorded work to include alternating turns as an insightful producer, a brilliant arranger and a prolific composer of more than a dozen film scores for the big and small screens.
Born in Baltimore in 1950, Goldstein began playing the accordion at age five and made the switch to piano a few years later. His family moved to Silver Springs, Maryland – just outside of Washington, DC – when he was in grade school. After high school, his quest to further his musical knowledge took him to no less than five colleges, starting with two years at American University, followed by a year at Berklee, then two years at the University of Maryland, where he studied piano with Dr. Stuart Gordon and received a bachelors degree in music. He earned a masters degree in music in a single year at the University of Miami, followed by a doctorate from The Union Graduate School.
Goldstein’s year in Miami, from 1972 to 1973, proved to be the most important of his early years. “Pat Metheny was a student when I was there,” he says, “and there was also this incredible group of people playing in the Miami area, including Jaco Pastorius and the legendary Ira Sullivan. I had walked into his great jazz scene, completely by accident.”
After Miami, Goldstein moved to New York, and spent the reminder of the decade gigging with a variety musicians: Pat Martino, Pat Metheny Billy Cobham, Ray Barretto, Lee Konitz and others. His recording career began in the winter of 1976 when he appeared on three of Martino’s records back to back – Starbright (Martino’s Warner Brothers debut), We’ll Be Together Again and Exit.
These three projects proved to be the genesis of his work as an arranger and producer. The electric piano accompaniments he improvised on We’ll Be Together Again signaled the string writing that would eventually follow. Shortly after finishing Martino’s projects, Goldstein cut his first solo record, Pure As Rain, in 1978. Seven more albums would follow, including the acclaimed Zebra Coast in 1992.
But even as his recording career was getting under way, Goldstein’s various friends and collaborators began looking beyond his skills as an instrumentalist. And playing jobs began to morph into arranging and producing jobs. Case in point, Jim Hall offered him the dream gig of joining his quartet in the mid 1980s, and Goldstein eventually produced the 1993 Pat Metheny/Jim Hall duet recording, Something Special. He also co-produced, co-arranged and conducted on Hall’s 1997 recording, Textures.
However, the turning point came when Goldstein met Gil Evans in 1982 and began playing with the master until his death six years later. The association with Evans changed everything about Goldstein’s musical perspective and his approach to arranging. “Gil Evans was a philosopher,” he says. “He possessed cultural secrets which I have tried to absorb and pass on further.”
Goldstein’s career split off in another direction in the ‘80s when he took an assignment to score an ABC After-School Special, Summer Switch, which was also the directorial debut of Ken Kwapis (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Office). Goldstein scored two more After-School Specials, and eventually composed music for a series of feature-length motion pictures, including Radio Inside (1994), I Love You, I Love You Not (1997) and Simply Irresistible (1999). He also provided orchestration for film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music for Peter Kosminsky’s Wuthering Heights (1992) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha (1994), and Metheny’s score for A Map of the World (1999). He is also an in-demand accordionist – particularly by film composer Eliot Goldenthal, who has featured him in his music for Frida (2002), Across the Universe (2007), and many others.
Despite his work in film, arranging continued to be Goldstein’s creative anchor. “I kept coming back to working with musicians whom I liked and admired, but I didn’t necessarily want to just play with them,” he says. “I thought I could be more effective as an arranger and find ways to make their music resonate and vibrate according to the principles of the overtone series, which he learned through studying with Otto Luening, the 20th century composer who pioneered electronic music in the 1950s.
The list of musicians for whom Goldstein has arranged is as impressive as it is lengthy: David Sanborn, Bobby McFerrin, Chris Botti, Milton Nascimento, James Moody, Richard Bona, Randy Brecker, Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau and many others. He reconstructed orchestrations for Miles Davis’ Miles Davis and Quincy Jones Play the Music of Gil Evans, which won a Grammy Award in 1993. In addition, he produced and arranged Michael Brecker’s last two recordings – Wide Angles (2003) and Pilgrimage (2007) – both of which also scored Grammys.
“I really liked Mike,” says Goldstein. “I was a total fan of his playing, and I liked him as a person. Mike was a bit of a control freak, but the kind that I love and admire. He knew exactly what he wanted and could express it, and when he changed something I wrote, it was clear to me and I understood the intent of the change.”
He adds that Metheny, Sanborn and Botti are similar to Brecker in that respect. “The chance to work with people who have clearly defined musical identities is a gift,” he says. “That way, I can morph into their musical personalities. Then I can develop alternate musical styles when I work with them, which increases my scope. Because of this skill, Pat Metheny nicknamed me ‘the Zelig of jazz.’ I’m flattered by that. As a child, I remember telling my mother that I was going to play piano at an assembly, and that I wished I could be invisible when I played, because I felt I could be more creative, more out of sight and less self conscious. I feel that way to this day. As a producer and arranger, I guess I would prefer that the listener ‘pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,’ just like The Wizard of Oz, and instead focus on the artist who’s making the music.
In early 2010, Goldstein co-arranged and produced bassist Esperanza Spalding’s latest recording, Chamber Music Society, which is scheduled for release on Heads Up in August 2010. “Esperanza’s process was very similar to Mike’s,” he says. “She is so clear in her direction and offers so much richness in terms of the compositions and what she brings to them. We developed a give-and-take relationship that always progressed the plot and clarified the story of the music. In terms of the younger generation of jazz players, I think she leads the list. In addition to her playing, singing, and composing skills, she’s a natural arranger, who I have learned from and been able to share my knowledge with.”
In addition to his work as a producer and arranger, Goldstein has also been a teacher since the mid-1980s – at the Mead School for Human Development, the New School, and New York University. He is the author of The Jazz Composer’s Companion, a collection of interviews with 15 notable jazz composers, a foreword by Bill Evans, and an overview of the musical materials that – as Evans wrote – “impose no style and thus can be used to extend and musician’s vocabulary.”
GIL GOLDSTEIN PROFILE