Victor Gould (p), Jeremy Pelt (tp), Godwin Louis (as), Myron Walden (ts), Anne Drummond (fl), Ben Williams (b), E.J. Strickland (d), Pedrito Martínez (perc), Yoojin Park (violin), Heejin Chang (viola), Veronica Parrales (cello)
Bar code: 8427328435024
"A Los Angeles native now in New York, pianist Gould debuts as a leader in an album showcasing him and an impressive collection of established musicians. He apprenticed as a sideman with, among other leader, Vincent Herring, Wallace Roney and Ralph Peterson. As a composer and arranger Gould works in a wide instrumental spectrum. His pieces range from the fleet “Sir Carter” in a trio with E.J. Strickland and bassist Ben Williams, to compositions for a sextet augmented with strings, Anne Drummond’s flute and the Latin percussion of Pedrito Martinez. Saxophonists Myron Walden and Godwin Louis and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt are important as soloists and in ensembles. Influences detectable in Gould’s writing include those of John Coltrane in “Apostle John” and Wayne Shorter in Shorter’s modern classic “Nefertiti.” However, in his concept, playing and—notably—his writing, Gould seems poised to make his mark as an original. He has surrounded himself here with a cadre of consequential twenty-, thirty- and forty-something New York peers."
Doug Ramsey (September 18, 2017)
"Debut recordings are usually safe affairs. Don’t show too much leg, and be sure to award your sidemen with plenty of solos, lest they not return the recording favor. Thankfully, pianist Victor Gould is ignoring that conventional wisdom.
Clockwork races from string-accompanied trios and small ensemble blowouts to percussion-fired quartets and intimate duo/trio explorations. It’s bold, invigorating and fresh. A veteran of the bandstands of drummers Ralph Peterson and Louis Hayes and saxophonists Vincent Herring and Eric Alexander, the Los Angeles-born Gould is daring but also benevolent. Clockwork is filled with inspired solos from his supporting cast of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, bassist Ben Williams, tenor saxophonist Myron Walden, alto saxophonist Godwin Louis and in exceedingly fine form, drummer E.J. Strickland.
Afro-Cuban themes run rampant on this album, beginning with the title track, which is propelled by the conga percolations of Pedrito Martinez. “Room" swings sweetly and, near the track’s end, recalls the ethereal melody of Seals & Crofts’ “Hummingbird.” “Blue Dales” begins with Gould’s questioning piano, then branches out to a spare melody and more Afro-Cuban agitation. “The Return” twirls and whirls, the band deftly navigating complex rhythms and straightahead swing. Toward the end of the disc, Gould infuses Wayne Shorters “Nefertiti” with casual beauty.
Ken Micallef (October, 2016)
"Here’ s a guy that is going to impress you. Pianist and composer, Victor Gould has both a gracious sound on his instrument and a clever handle of the pen. The core here is the “classic” sextet of trumpet (Jeremy Pelt), alto sax (Godwin Louis) and tenor sax (Myron Walden) along with a rhythm team of Ben Williams/b on loan from Pat Metheny, EJ Strickland/dr, but there are some guests on reeds, percussion and strings.
The piano and percussion drive hard as the saxes and trumpet gallop on the modal title track” while Walden’s tenor swings easy and Pelt’s horn is gentle on “Room” and “Chance’” respectively. Gould’s touch on the piano is flowing and gracious, as he demonstrates on “The Apostle” which includes strings, and the thoughtful “Blue Dales” which lets the horns sit out but Pedrito Martinez’s percussion sit in. The rhythm team shows it’s muscle on the sole cover, with a backbeat on the sweet spot for Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti” while “Three Souls” have the band deliver a Latin lilt with style. This guy’s gonna make some waves, and this is an excellent opening ripple."
George W. Harris (August 1, 2016)
"It’s understandable that a jazz pianist might feel inclined, even obliged, to debut as a leader with a trio album. But Clockwork, the maiden voyage of Victor Gould, includes sextet arrangements, two pieces augmented with strings, and several percussion turns from Pedrito Martinez. There are piano trio showcases as well, but they are part of the mosaic, not the full picture. “I didn’t want to be locked in with instrumentation,” says Gould. “I’ve come to believe that the best orchestration is when you change instrumentation very often. So you could think of that in the scheme of one piece or a whole record.”
The title Clockwork amplifies this point, suggesting that varied instrumentation can in fact yield great coherence. “Clockwork is many different elements working together,” notes Gould. “It’s the very definition of clockwork — the gears of a clock all working together to create something very intricate.” At the heart of it all is an extraordinary synergy between Gould, bassist Ben Williams and drummer E. J. Strickland. It’s consistent throughout the record but most starkly evident on the trio cuts.
Having made his mark in recent years as a sideman with Wallace Roney, Ralph Peterson, Donald Harrison, Louis Hayes, Vincent Herring, Eric Alexander and more, Gould has learned a thing or two about musical clockwork. A native of Los Angeles, he attended Berklee as an undergrad and then earned the high honor of a slot at Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz from 2009-2011. Studying alongside him at both these institutions was Godwin Louis, the alto saxophonist heard on this album, who happens to be one of Gould’s dearest friends.
Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, who’s been hiring Gould in his own superb band of late, is a characteristically stirring soloist as well as a focused and dynamic ensemble presence on the sextet pieces. Myron Walden, playing soprano and tenor saxophones, took on an added role as co-producer: “Myron and I decided which would be the best song choices from my catalogue,” Gould recalls. “After that, he helped run the recording session and took charge of time management, so it lifted a lot of the stress from me.”
Pelt plays flugelhorn on “Chaancé,” one of the two pieces to feature strings. Written and named after Gould’s wife, this lovely ballad finds the leader in a tensile give-and-take with the strings during his eloquent solo, blending with and responding to them but soaring with renewed intensity when they fall silent. By contrast, there’s an “apocalyptic” energy, to use Gould’s word, coursing through “Apostle John,” from the foreboding rubato of the prelude to the modal groove and intricate counterpoint of the piece itself. Anne Drummond adds just the right flavor on flute, almost sounding like a soprano voice.
The string arrangements followed from Gould’s prior experience scoring for symphony orchestra (his original piece “Side Angle,” which doesn’t appear here). The sextet arrangements, for their part, were a result of his tenure at the Monk Institute, where he played with a six-piece dream band of fellow students. Along with the swinging, Latin-tinged title track we hear “Three Souls,” a tribute not only to the great Hank Jones but also to two people close to Gould who died around the same time (the fleeting reference to Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing” seems to imply a fourth soul). Another sextet piece, “Room 416,” is named for the Berklee dorm room that Gould shared with bassist and friend Peter Spear, who died tragically in 2014. “Peter was really good friends with Godwin as well, so I thought it was important for Godwin to take that lead melody in the A section and show some love.”
“The Return,” a quartet number that features Louis again in radiant form, is Gould’s dedication to trumpeter Gregory Diaz, who struggled with embouchure problems at Berklee and was unable to play for a period of time. “Greg and I went to high school together as well and he was one of the best trumpet players I knew. I wrote this tune to encourage him — ‘The Return of Greg Diaz’ is its full name.”
“Sir Carter,” led off by an eccentric intro for horns and drums, is what one suspects: an homage to the great Ron Carter, who visited the Monk Institute for a week and had a profound impact on Gould and his fellow students. “Nefertiti” is of course a legendary Wayne Shorter piece that Carter himself played with the Miles Davis Quintet. Gould’s brisk 5/4 rendition gives it a straight-eighth-note patina and some added twists and turns, without ever sacrificing the tune’s hypnotic legato flavor. Here again the trio chemistry is substantial. Gould solos forcefully before yielding to the virtuosic Williams.
Martinez adds his inimitable congas on “Blue Dales,” which Gould originally composed as an etude to practice independence but later turned into a song. Right away the congas add propulsion and color to the bright, staccato rhythms of the theme, so dazzlingly articulated by Williams and Strickland. The piece is a 16-bar minor blues with dramatic and clever harmonic movement, an ideal framework for improvising: Williams leads off, followed by Gould and finally Strickland over a tumultuous four-bar vamp.
In the end it’s the combination of elements in Gould’s music — the hard-bop drive and harmonic adventure, the chamber-music refinement, the Latin tinge that Jelly Roll Morton theorized all those years ago — that makes Clockwork succeed on the level that it does. It couldn’t be clearer: Gould was ready, after years spent on numerous big-league bandstands, to take the reins and bring all his experience to bear, pursuing a sound deep in technical proficiency and flair but also expressive nuance and immersion in the jazz tradition. May those gears keep turning."
-David R. Adler, New York, March 2016
"Pianist Victor Gould has established himself as a dextrous sideman, and his first disc as a leader displays a strong creative vision as well. It is refreshing to see a musician so deeply rooted in the hard-bop tradition experimenting with new sounds: Gould employs a powerhouse Jazz Messengers style sextet, but expands the group by adding woodwinds, strings, and percussion. It is particularly impressive that Gould manages to leave plenty of room for improvisation even as his arrangements can be dense. And it is nice to see each member of the band getting due space to stretch out.
Saxophonist Myron Walden is an underrated voice and perennial sideman, while alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, Gould’s schoolmate, possesses a silky tone and a rhythmic bounce reminiscent of Cannonball Adderley. Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) sounds more fired up than he has been in years, and the rhythm section of Ben Williams (bass) and E.J. Strickland (drums) sound both effortless and energetic. Strickland is particularly impressive, with fleet snare drum comping and explosive crashes.
The dominant mode here is straight-eighth and Latin grooves bolstered by percussionist Pedrito Martinez, but the orchestrated pieces are also stunning. On “Chaance,” Gould takes a pleasant ballad and makes it stunning thanks to strings and horns in close con- versation. But the strings don not overbear; they retreat at just the right moments to make room for Gould’s understated solo. Gould gets a greater share of the spotlight on a hand- ful of trio tunes, including a take on Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti,” but even here he is generous, clearly communicating with the rhythm section and, as on the rest of the album, turning a solo showcase into a markedly collaborative effort."
Tree Palmedo (July, 2016)
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