The easy, obvious comparison with Goldberg and his trio (bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, they also work with the great Charles Lloyd) is to Brad Mehldau’s small combo/trio work – tinkering, skittish percussion flirts alongside piano glissando, they so effortlessly, as a group, fall back into the lope of post-bop balladry and in Goldberg’s playing there are references to indie and pop music as influences outside of jazz. It’s an easy and obvious comparison then – but largely because it’s correct. Meant hear as compliment too – The Now is Goldberg’s fifth album as leader of this trio and he’s sticking to his guns, open to explore, but creating a gentile version of experimentation.
The Now opens with the gorgeous ballad, Trocando em Miudos, spacious as Ahmad Jamal, the rhythm section trotting along behind in part, then tinkering at his side, in much the same way as The Bad Plus flirts with destruction, or at least deconstruction.
Then it’s to the livelier Yoyo where the Latin flavour is more overtly examined. But it’s when Goldberg sits right in the middle of a ballad, holding that slow, purposeful tempo, allowing the notes to ring, the tone to waft, the mood to float, as on The Wind in the Night when we hear the true power of his playing; less is more.
When we’re given the big backbeat (E-Land) it sounds just a tad like session-room workouts. When the brushes dance softly beneath Goldberg’s steady, graceful hand (Francisca) that’s when the true magic is conjured.
There’s a lot of loveliness here and just enough branching out so that the listener is never bogged down by balladry. A gorgeous set of tunes overall with plenty of highlights and confidence so obviously on display. Really lovely.