Alex Goodman doesn’t really cross borders so much as straddle them.
Although the Toronto-raised guitarist and composer has made his home in New York City for the past three-and-a-half years, he seems to keep one foot planted in the musical soil of his homeland.
“I think of Toronto as a very vibrant music scene. The jazz community in particular is very strong,” he says.
“It kind of functions in a similar way to New York, where you have a pool of very talented individuals who blaze off in different directions and kind of specialize in different areas of jazz music, or whatever genre.”
Goodman is currently on a Canadian tour to promote his latest CD, Border Crossing, slated for international release on April 15. It’s a compilation of tunes he wrote for an eclectic mix of instruments including voice, vibraphone, tuba, guitar and percussion.
Most of the musicians on that album are Canadian. But when he comes to Yukon this week, it will be with a different, New York-based quartet playing repertoire designed for a new CD he hopes to release in 2017.
Goodman first moved to New York to pursue a masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music.
“When my visa was expiring and I was kind of reassessing, it was pretty clear that it would be best to stay longer in New York, because a lot of the initial time of developing relationships had already happened, and it made a lot of sense to kind of continue with it.”
Goodman sees a lot of similarities between Toronto and New York, as well as some differences.
“A lot of my friends moved from different parts of the country to Toronto. And that magnet effect definitely has implications for the music, because you just have a larger pool,” he says.
“The thing about New York, I realized, is that it’s really drawing from everywhere in the world. So the musicians’ community is very international. So you have a lot of input into the development of the music, and a lot of different experiences and different backgrounds that inform everything that’s going on.”
The key difference, he suggests, is that New York has a more direct connection to traditional jazz as a distinctly American-born art form.
“Basically the entire history of jazz has revolved around this city, so it’s kind of central to the character of New York,” he says.
“I was in Harlem, basically next door to where Duke Ellington lived and Count Basie lived. You kind of feel you’re in the centre of it a little bit, and you feel very close to where so many things happened, which is really exciting.”
Goodman currently makes his living mostly as a guitarist, but he is also a prolific composer, with more than 100 compositions, two film scores and a book of solo guitar music to his credit. Although chiefly known as a jazz musician, he also has impressive credits in other genres.
In 2013, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) presented him with the Herb Alpert Jazz Composer award. The next year, he was a finalist for ASCAP’s Morton Gould award for classical composition.
Things might have turned out differently if he had stuck with one of his musical passions as a teenager.
“I played in a punk band called the Nihilists. We played in a lot of hilarious venues around Toronto and had a lot of fun,” he laughs.
“But as the band grew, I got more interested in improvisation and taking solos. And I think that’s what naturally led into an interest and a curiosity for jazz.”
The Alex Goodman Quartet will perform in Whitehorse on Sunday, April 3 at a Jazz on the Wing concert in the Yukon Arts Centre. They will also be in Dawson on Thursday, April 7 for an event sponsored by the Dawson City Jazz Society.
Beside Goodman on guitar, the group consists of Rick Rosato (originally from Montreal) on bass, Texan Matt Marantz on saxophone and Jimmy Macbride on drums.
“Something that’s really important is the camaraderie that exists in groups like this, and I think you can really hear it in the music,” Goodman says. “I really wanted to make sure that there was a group that didn’t only have musical chemistry, but personal chemistry as well.”
One thing the four musicians have in common is youth. At 24, the Connecticut-born Macbride is the youngest, but none of them is over 30.
“Although the band is pretty young, these guys are really musicians in the highest levels of the jazz world right now,” Goodman says.
The Jazz on the Wing concert starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.jazzyukon.ca.