Elegant Traveler is the debut for the well-traveled Canadian jazz guitarist/composer/arranger and now bandleader Jocelyn Gould. Gould works with a core quarter augmented by one, two, or three horns on five of the ten selections, mostly originals with a few standards. While earning her master’s degree at Michigan State, that’s where Gould began to hone her style of wing, blues, soul, and groove, mentored by guitarist Randy Napoleon and influenced by studying Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Joe Pass. So, those are your reference points as you listen to this swinging, easy rolling set of music.
Originally from Winnipeg, Gould spent time not only in Michigan but in New York, has performed in many high profile festivals and won several prestigious guitarist awards. In September 2019, she began a professorship as head of the guitar department at Humber College in Toronto, which is home to Canada’s largest and well know guitar department. Gould gives clinics across North America including at her alma mater, the University of Manitoba.
Gould’s quartet features pianist Addison Frei, bassist George DeLancey, and drummer Quincy Davis. Saxophonist Brandon Wright appears twice, trumpeter Anthony Stanco three times as does trombonist Michael Dease. Having lived in four cities in the past three and half years, the album takes it title from Gould’s quest for grace and elegance in an often unsettled state in an unsettled world. Now, unfortunately she’s facing a lack of touring and the uncertainty associated with colleges due to the pandemic. She may now be coveting those traveling days, In any case, she put plenty of thought and inspiration into her debut.
She begins with the swing Cole Porter tune “It’s All Right with Me,” featuring the core quartet and at the suggestion of drummer Davis, including the Wes Montgomery-like solo parts in the first chorus “Kindling” is inspired by Wayne Shorter begins with a rubato piano introduction by Frei but increasingly swings hard as the piece unfolds. Frei’s shimmering piano work perfectly complements Gould’s melodic lines throughout and Fried especially shines on this cut. “Center of the Universe” is about the feeling Gould had when moving to NYC, brought home by the energetic fervor of Wright’s tenor solo. To contrast with the swinging nature of those three, Gould takes a scintillating solo guitar outing on the tender standard “It Might As Well Be Spring.”
Naturally, the tempo picks up with “Change of Plans,” which Gould describes as “get on board or out of the way.” Trumpeter Stanco and trombonist Dease are on the front line, beginning in tandem before each bursts forth with sizzling, declarative statements, leading into Gould’s flowing solo, marked with exquisite tone and phrasing. That blistering performance calls for a break, delivered here in “A Fleeting Moment” where, at the suggestion of producer Marc Free, they move from 3/4 to 4/4 time between piano and guitar solos. In fact, Gould doubles the tempo on some of her solos. The clear standout “Argyle,” named for a collaborative performing space in Winnipeg features all three horn players, with each musician in the septet stretching out in the convivial spirit of an all-out jam session.
“In a Daydream” was written when Gould still lives in Winnipeg. It’s about longing for another place to move away to, the yearning feeling which trombonist Dease captures well in his inspired conversation with Gould’s guitar. The soul-blues “The Game Changer” nods to Detroit and Gould’s imagining of that city’s special musical vibe. Similarly, Detroit and Michigan are at the heart of the closing Duke Ellington’s “All Too Soon” where Gould and Detroit native trumpet Stanco play the melodic voices of two beings whose time together has to end. As stated previously, Gould found her musical footing in Michigan but relocated to New York, perhaps ‘all too soon.”
Gould makes an auspicious debut here, checking the boxes as leader, composer, arranger, and most impressively as a grooving, confident finessed guitarist.
- Jim Hynes