Guitarist Rich Goldstein Digs Into Soul Jazz Roots on "Into the Blue"

Veteran jazz guitarist and educator Rich Goldstein, a longtime faculty member at The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, channels some of his guitar heroes and main influences on Into the Blue. From Wes Montgomery and George Benson to Pat Martino, Joe Diorio and Randy Johnston, Goldstein's playing on his debut release for the Truth Revolution label is marked by a seasoned touch, a penchant for swinging and obvious reverence for the history of jazz guitar.

Joined by organist Yahn Frankel, vibraphonist Behn Gillece and drummer Ben Bilello, Goldstein delivers in old school fashion on a program of well-known standards by Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles, along with two numbers popularized by Dinah Washington and Jack McDuff. These soul jazz takes are blues-tinged and authentically grooving, transporting listeners back to the golden era of Blue Note's Hammond B3 organ tradition in the '50s and '60s.

Goldstein's third recording as a leader, following 2008's Wes Montgomery tribute, Comin' from Montgomery, and 2011's Effervescent with pianist Andy LaVerne, bassist Steve LaSpina, saxophonist Billy Drewes and drummer Anthony Pinciotti, finds the guitarist and his crew nimbly shifting from hard bop burners (his Martino tribute, "Altered State") to slow blues ("Our Miss Brooks, " written by Harold Vick for Jack McDuff's group) to ballads (Dave Pike's "Not a Tear, " Django Reinhardt's "Nuages") to bossa nova (a mellow Brazilian take on Stevie Wonder's "You and I"), each imbued with requisite soul. "I love the organ groups going back to Wes Montgomery's first album with Mel Rhyne, which was heavily influential for me, " said Goldstein. "But I liked all the organ groups from those times - Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith. I came up with all that stuff. And I'm a blues player at heart. That's really where I come from."

Goldstein and his accomplished crew kick off Into the Blue with an infectious shuffle version of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night, " featuring plenty of blues-drenched Martino-inspired soloing and Wes-like octaves work from the leader, as well as potent solos from Gillece on vibes and

Frankel on B-3. "I like to groove, and a hard shuffle is always going to point my playing in that direction, " said the leader.

Next up is a tender reading of guitarist Rudy Stevenson's brooding ballad "Not a Tear (from vibraphonist Dave Pike's 1964 album, Manhattan Latin, a recording that featured young Chick Corea and Cuban bass legend Cachao. Midway through the piece, they shift into an energized 12/8 feel for Goldstein's guitar solo before settling into uptempo 4/4 swing behind Gillece's and Frankel's respective solos. "There's not a lot of bands that have covered this song, " said Goldstein, who dedicated the piece to his late friend and collaborator, the great Cuban-born, Hartford-based bassist Charles Flores (who was mentored by Cachao). "As soon as I heard it I

knew I wanted to include it on this date and dedicate it to my musical brother Charles Flores who I think about often. I subtly rearranged it. And if you listen carefully, I borrowed a littleturnaround from one of my favorite tunes when I was a kid — Led Zeppelin's 'Since I've Been Loving You, ' a really slow minor blues that I always loved."

Their tasty rendition of Dinah Washington's 1959 hit, "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes, " opens with Goldstein's guitar setting the tone. Then a sequence of sparkling soloing by Goldstein, Frankel and Gillece culminates in some conversational exchanges between guitar and organ near the end of the familiar piece. They next put an engaging bossa nova spin on Stevie Wonder's "You and I" (from 1972's Talking Book), a romantic ballad which has become a favorite for weddings and vow renewals over the decades. And their take on Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" borrows a brassy soli section that Coleman Hawkins had conceived for his own rendition

of that classic bebop tune that appears on his 1947 Fantasy album, Bean & The Boys. "Monk wrote the tune, but Coleman Hawkins came up with that soli section, " said Goldstein. "We try to play it in unison, and I put a Joe Diorio line right at the end of it." And catch Frankel's playful quote from Monk's "Four In One" in the middle of his solo here.

Goldstein's arrangement of "Nuages" finds drummer Bilello playing an alluring "Poinciana" beat with mallets underneath the legendary Django Reinhardt's most popular tune from 1939. "I didn't change much, " he explained. "It's pretty much the tune everyone knows with that same

kind of romantic vibe to it. I just thought the 'Poinciana' beat gives it something different. It goes nicely under that tune and keeps it kind of buoyant."

They luxuriate in Harold Vick's "Our Miss Brooks, " a super-slow blues number that builds to dynamic crescendos, with stellar soloing along the way by Goldstein, Gillece and Frankel. Their rendition of Horace Silver's "Cool Eyes" (from 1956's 6 Pieces of Silver on the Blue Note label)

is an arrangement by frequent Goldstein collaborator, pianist Jim Argiro. "He's 84 now and I still play in a group with him, " he explained. "He's an arranger who was in Los Angeles for many years and did TV shows in the '60s like Sonny and Cher and The Tonight Show. He was Leslie

Uggams' musical director and wrote many of Bernadette Peters' early arrangements for orchestra. He wrote charts that are in the Basie book, he's done everything. He's got tons of arrangements. His quintet book has over 550 arrangements dating back to 1965. So, for this tune, I just adapted it for our organ group. So, I borrowed that from Jim."

The leader's lone original on the album, "Altered State, " is a shout out to his guitar hero, Pat Martino. "It's a new tune I had just written and never really played live, " he explained. "It's named 'Altered State' because of what Pat went through with the brain aneurysm he had in the '80s and because all the chords in the tune are altered chords. And I really borrowed that fast line at the ending from Pat, though nobody can articulate like Pat Martino." The album closes with the lone trio track (sans Gillece), a rendition of the Irving Berlin standard, "How Deep Is The Ocean." Said Goldstein, "This came at the very end of the session. We had done everything that we had planned on doing, but then I was like, 'Let's just play it!' And we kind of let loose on that one. That's an arrangement that I play with Yahn. It's his arrangement. It was just something a little extra, and it came out great."

About Rich Goldstein:

A seasoned and highly respected figure on the Hartford, Connecticut jazz scene, guitarist- educator Rich Goldstein has been gigging, recording, and sharing the bandstand with his mentors and his students over the past 30 years. His latest recording, Into the Blue, is a swinging affair that pairs him with Hammond B-3 organist and longtime collaborator Yahn Frankel alongside vibraphonist Behn Gillece and drummer Ben Bilello. Goldstein and his accomplished crew deliver in old school fashion on a program of soul jazz takes on well-known standards by Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles, along with two numbers popularized by Dinah Washington and Jack McDuff. "I love the organ groups going back to Wes Montgomery's first album with Mel Rhyne, which was heavily influential for me, " said the guitarist. "But I liked all the organ groups from those times - Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith. I came up with all that stuff. And I'm a blues player at heart. That'sb really where I come from."

Born in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, Goldstein’s family moved to South Windsor, Connecticut in his childhood. By the time he was 12 he played in various high school bands performing at school dances, local fairs, and the occasion nightclub, like The Russian Lady in downtown Hartford.

Following his early years playing pop and rock, Goldstein began gravitating toward jazz. “When I bought my first records outside the Stones, Hendrix, Beck and Led Zeppelin, it was Wes’ Full House, Barney Kessel’s ’57 Poll Winners, Charlie Parker’s Now’s the Time, Frank Zappa’s Them or Us and Alan Holdsworth’s Metal Fatigue, all bought on the same day when I was 13 or 14. These sounds really opened my mind to the possibilities outside of what I was hearing on mainstream radio. I really loved music and guitar and was exploring all the possibilities, so I studied classical guitar for about a year and auditioned for the Hartt School and got in”, “I did a year as a Classical major but then one of the bands I was in ended up getting signed to an indie label and moving to Minneapolis when I was 18 or 19, ” he recalls. “We toured all around the Midwest, but nothing else really came of it.” “While I was in Minneapolis, I really got into John Scofield and spent a lot of hours trying to play like him.”

While he hadn’t had any real formal jazz training at that point, resorting strictly to playing by ear and picking up licks off records, it was seeing New York-based guitarist Randy Johnston performing at the 880 Club in Hartford’s South End that finally convinced Goldstein to study jazz improvisation. “I made the decision right there and then that I really had to pursue this music more seriously, ” he said. “I ended up talking to Jackie McLean and he let me into the program he established at The Hartt School. So, I made that change around that time and became really focused on trying to play jazz.”

Goldstein studied jazz guitar at The Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute with Johnston and got his degree in African American Music Studies while gigging with R@B and blues bands five or six nights a week all through college. He later began teaching at Hartt himself in 1994 following a recommendation from his own mentor, guitarist Johnston. “When I was asked to teach at Hartt, I was in shock and considered it a great honor, and I still do, ” he said. “Jackie was a huge inspiration, truly one of the greatest. And his mark on the saxophone, jazz improv, and Hartford will remain through history.” Goldstein later received his master’s degree at SUNY-

Purchase in 2009 (he wrote his master’s thesis on another guitar hero, Jim Hall) and he subsequently studied with guitar great John Abercrombie.

To date, the guitarist has shared the stage with a wide range of musicians, from sax legend Houston Person to trombonist Steve Davis, tenor saxophonist and former Jazz Messenger Javon Jackson, Cuban drumming great Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Hartford gospel artist Hubert Powell and jam band legend, drummer Jaimoe, the last surviving member of the original Allman Brothers Band. Goldstein played regular duo gigs with pianist Andy LaVerne including one at New York’s Cornelia Street Café during the club’s Bill Evans 80th Birthday Celebration and played duo with fellow guitarist Peter Bernstein at Vito’s in Hartford. Goldstein played the late-night set at Smalls in the Village every Tuesday for several years in a group with Behn Gillece and Ken Fowser (both Posi-Tone recording artists). “We used to start at midnight and never got home till the sun was rising. Smalls was great because I was exposed to so many great musicians, we would have Spike Wilner or Jeremy Manasia on piano, sometimes Joel Frahm played with us, you never would know who might be there, one night even the great Roy Hargrove sat in.” Other New York City venues included Birdland, The Jazz Gallery, and Fat Cat as well as at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston and Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford. He has also played The Atlanta Jazz Fest, The Cancun Jazz Fest and The Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. Goldstein has presented many Masterclasses on the East coast and has appeared as a guest with the Farmington and New Haven Symphonies, The Hartford Jazz Orchestra, New England Jazz Ensemble, etc.

In addition to his own three albums as a leader — 2008’s Wes Montgomery tribute, Comin’ from Montgomery, 2011’s Effervescent and 2024’s Into the Blue — Goldstein has recorded as a sideman on albums by Charles Flores, Rob Zappulla, Jim Argiro and Ed Fast & Conga Bop (he appears on their 2017 outing, Do or Die, which also marks one of the last recorded appearancesof guitar great Larry Coryell).

In addition to his long tenure at The Hartt School, he has taught at Central Connecticut College, Southern Connecticut State University, Choate boarding school, Avon Old Farms boarding school, the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and the Canton and Litchfield Jazz Camps. He was also a regular attending member of the annual Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference.

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