Goines Gets Bluesy with Standards
A night after dropping in during local alto saxophonist Mace Hibbard’s quartet gig at Churchill Grounds in Atlanta, tenor saxophonist Victor Goines was back at the club the next evening (Jan. 5) with a quartet that delivered two invigorating, wide-ranging sets.
Goines is no stranger to Atlanta, and he usually plays with his own group at various venues around the city at least once a year in addition to his big band gigs with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. (He will return to Atlanta on Feb. 9 for an Emory University Jazz Festival performance with the university big band.) Joined by two faculty members from Emory—bassist Chris Riggenbach and Goines’ longtime friend, pianist Gary Motley—and rounded out by drummer Dana Hall, who teaches percussion at DePaul University, this show was driven by a quartet of academics. Goines, who is the head of the jazz studies department at Northwestern University, led this group of educators on the closing night of the Jazz Education Network’s annual conference, which took place a few blocks away at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
The tenor saxophonist, who also performed on soprano saxophone and clarinet, is a very deliberate, thoughtful player. On the opening number, “Stella By Starlight,” he filled the room with a robust, heady tenor sound, showcasing his fluidity and range. During the first set, he rarely strayed from standards—“Autumn Leaves,” “The Nearness Of You,” a playful version of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning”— and worked with a deep foundation in the blues. When he set aside his tenor for clarinet, he brightened up the dim room with expressive, earnest readings of Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance.” The lighter, more playful timbre of the clarinet allowed for a more malleable and engaging playing style.
Motley’s introduction of “Squeeze Me” by Fats Waller, dripping anachronistic stride, grounded the evening. His ornate lines and a long series of interlocking chords, moving up and down the piano, sounded like a 21st century piano roll—a sound grounded in yesteryear, but with enough modernity to be of the moment. The pianist played dirty blues as well as he did tender ballads and proved a wonderful foil for Goines. (The saxophonist, who has a house in Georgia, noted that the two have been friends for 25 years.)
This makeshift quartet performed mostly music of the past, but sneaked a bit of contemporary flavor into the mix. “Autumn Leaves,” for instance, was stripped down and put back together with a disjunct, stop-time feel, with shifts in groove separating the sections of the tune. Other songs were played fairly straight, but all the performances had a strong, healthy undercurrent of blues and swing.