The red headed trumpeter from Chicago, Brad Goode, is a fine technician who mastered the bop language thanks to stints with such heavy hitters as Red Rodney, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Harris, Ira Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Jack DeJohnette, and Rosemary Clooney. Dizzy even dubbed Goode “Little Red Rodney” and not just because they shared the same hair color.
Goode has been leading his own bands and making his own records since the late 80s, and though most of his records are considered tradition minded and he probably hadn’t been hanging out with the hometown AACM crowd much, that hardly means Goode hadn’t been innovating. Over the last couple of decades, he’s been experimenting with polychordal harmonies, whereby dissonance is created by one instrumental playing chord progressions at ones with another instrument, but — and this is the tricky part — the combined sound still makes sense to the listeners. Goode calls his own conception of this approach the “Polytonal System of Harmony,” a method he implemented in earnest when he crossed over to electric jazz on 2008′s Polytonal Dance Party. After a return to the acoustic straight-ahead stuff on Tight Like That (2010), Goode issues the true follow up to Polytonal Dance Party with Chicago Red.
Named after another nickname given to Goode, Chicago Red brings back keyboardist Jeff Jenkins and guitarist/sitarist Bill Kopper, but also introduces a truly international rhythm section with Brazilian electric bassist Bijoux Barbosa, Ghanaian drummer Paa Kow and Lebanese percussionist Rony Barrak. Polytonal meets poly-ethnic, indeed.
It’s not obvious to my ears that Goode is going polytonal on every track on Chicago Red, but he’s got Kopper, Barbosa and Jenkins often playing contrapuntal structures, with enough distance among them to stretch out and practice real jazz within a fusion setting because they follow the approach to fusion pioneered by Miles Davis and Weather Report. Goode, who can also play drums and bass, obviously recognizes the value of a good groove and applies the funk principles of those forbears, too. All these components can be found on the cuts “What Happens In Space City,” “Chicago Red” and the Eddie Harris inspired “Intervallistic.” “If Spirals Had Corners” has the extra appealing feature of a melody that’s, well, spiraling, where Goode, Kopper and Barbosa turn in crisp solos very much in tune with the elliptical progression. “All Fall Down” is also a descriptive title, which includes a descending chord figure peppered throughout the song. Barbosa’s affinity for the bass god Jaco Pastorius is more evident on this song with both his percolating bass line and the highly melodic solo.
One track where the polytonal system of obviously used is on W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” a song famously covered by Louis Armstrong. Barrak’s hand drums signal the start of a most fascinating rendition. Goode plays it “trad” with a plunger but Kopper’s electric sitar is on completely different melodic progression and oddly, it fits in a uniquely exotic way. Kopper’s sitar also appears on a song from the I Pagliacci Italian Opera, Vesti La Giubba, paced by Goode’s smooth and precise notes.
“Cats In The Yard” ends the set, another funky fusion number that’s also darker and Goode playing in a particularly nasty way. Kopper takes the cue and delivers a sinister solo of his own.
In making the recent move to fusion, Goode has showed how a dedicated bop player can do it without abandoning any of their principles. The music is just as improvisational, inventive and dynamic as most of the best acoustic straight jazz, and, it’s nice and funky to boot. Chicago Red is a stellar example of how electric jazz should be done more often.
Chicago Red will hit the streets on February 19, courtesy of Origin Records. Visit Brad Goode’s website for more info.