It's no surprise that Alex Goodman's guitar playing is so good on his new album, Second Act; the 29-year-old prodigy is one of the most hotly buzzed jazz musicians to emerge from Canada in quite some time, being praised by press from around the globe, sharing the stage with esteemed elders like Ben Wolfe, John Ellis and John Riley, and earning a 2013 Juno nomination for his album Bridges.
On the last half of "Welcome to New York," the playing of pianist Eden Ladin and Goodman's own strumming and fretwork meld with the seeming ease of zipper teeth being drawn together. On "Acrobat," his guitar yins with the yang that is drummer Jimmy Macbride's deft hi-hat taps, in a balancing act perfectly befitting the song's title.
But what's most impressive of all on Second Act is Goodman's impeccable taste, as evidenced by the band mates he has selected. Not only do they complement his playing, but each member of the group solos just long enough to leave the listener satisfied. Then, each cedes the spotlight to a band mate that they are clearly a fan of (if the humble, fun and showboat free tone of these sessions is any indication).
For instance, Goodman doesn't hog the limelight on Second Act's opening moments, despite it being his album. Instead, that opening track, titled "Questions," begins with bassist Rick Rosato's rattling unaccompanied notes, which start and stop in rapid bursts reminiscent of how a car sounds when you turn the ignition, as you wait for the remaining engine noises to kick in. Rosato keeps that anticipation building on his own, making you feel like a driver who's worried they might have flooded the engine — but then the motor that is the rest of the band finally ignites to life.
Elsewhere, "Empty" is a showcase for saxophonist Matt Marantz and drummer Macbride's punchy playing. "The First Break" also lets Marantz shine as he blasts soulful notes that almost sound scientifically designed to make your torso wiggle and your toes tap.
But Goodman is still the star of the show, particularly on centrepiece tracks like "Departure" and "Losing Cool Introduction." They're both mellower numbers that heavily feature his guitar solos, every note of which sound luxuriously decadent.
All this and more will not only make listeners love Goodman's Second Act, but also eagerly await his third record, fourth and beyond. (Lyte Records)