Stu Goldberg: Eye of the Beholder (2009)
Eye of the Beholder will come as a surprise to fusion fans, being all-acoustic and sporting a string quartet on a number of its six Goldberg originals. But the writing is vibrant, and the arrangements for an expanded trio (bassist Jim Lacefield and drummer Dave Criggerwho may be working an acoustic trio here, but plays with a fusion attitude like his life depended on it) that also includes saxophonist/flautist Ken Goldberg and percussionist Lee Pastora in addition to the string quartet, burn with the same kind of energy with which fusion fans of Goldberg will be familiar.
The title track opens with a gospel feel, a mid-tempo piece of funk accessible yet so full of life and energy that it evokes an acoustic Brecker Brothers feel, right down to Ken Goldberg's screaming tenor solo. A recent discussion at the AAJ forum was Funky Acoustic/Double Bass, and Lacefield's tone and demeanor are nothing short of get-down. The aptly-titled "New Love" is gentler fare, Goldberg proving himself as lyrical as he is virtuosic. "Song Burst," on the other hand, begins almost pastorally with the string quartet, Lacefield's arco and Ken Goldberg's flute, but quickly morphs into a fiery, optimistic-sounding burner that gives Stu the opportunity to demonstrate his not inconsiderable chops as the tune turns modal for his solo.
But as is the case with other songs on the disc, including the Latin-esque "Daybreak, Sunbeam," these are no mere head-solo-head compositions. Instead, Goldberg has written a number of tunes that are episodic in nature yet hang together despite their sometimes abundant wealth of musical ideas.
Perhaps the most revealing and prescient tune on the disc is "Daybreak," which begins with the same piano motif as "Daybreak, Sunrise" but, as a solo piano feature for Goldberg, turns more impressionistic and harbingers more recent work. Throughout, as democratic as Goldberg is as a leader, there's no doubt who shines the most. Eye of the Beholder is an album that should have garnered Goldberg significant acclaim; perhaps this beautifully remastered reissue will do what the original didn't.
Track Listing: Eye of the Beholder; New Love; Song Burst; Daybreak, Sunbeam; Daybreak; Montreal.
Personnel: Stu Goldberg: piano; Jim Lacefield: acoustic bass; Dave Crigger: drums; Ken Goldberg: tenor saxophone, flute, piccolo; Lee Pastora: congas, bongos; Doug Cameron: first violin, concertmaster; Clayton Haslop: 2nd violin; Jimbo Ross: viola; Dan Smith: cello.
Record Label: Promising Music/MPS
Style: Modern Jazz