Cool jazz

November 14, 2007

When I met bassist Antar Goodwin a couple of weeks ago at Jason Rosen’s Baggot Inn jam session, his fellow musicians introduced Goodwin as the most jazz-oriented of the bunch. In saying this they also pointed out the irony of age; while some of his older band members had gravitated to blues, rock and even metal during their careers, 37-year-old Goodwin had decided to focus on the most outdated musical form.

“Unfortunately,” Goodwin laughed.

We chatted about the city’s overall apathy towards live music, the difficulty of supporting oneself as a musician, and the inaccessibility of jazz. While genre-defining jazz standards of the 1920s and 30s were based on words and melodies, today’s jazz is built on harmonic concepts, Goodwin said.

“You can’t sing the melody back, and if you’re not a jazz musician, you probably won’t like it unless someone introduces you to it, walks you through all the steps and takes the time to teach it,” he said.

During our conversation, he mentioned the short-lived coolness factor of smooth jazz in the 1980s; there was a time when smooth jazz was produced in the minds of innovative musicians, he said.

Today I ventured to Goodwin’s web site to hear mp3s by both his electric and acoustic group. Trained at Berklee, he transitions skillfully between the rhythm of the bass and the soloist nature of the guitar. Goodwin’s training in trumpet also pops to mind; although his main trade is the bass, he writes comfortably for melodic instruments.

Hearing both his electric and his acoustic pieces, our conversation about smooth jazz popped into my mind.  These melody-driven songs stroll along comfortably and unhurriedly, exuding a sense of restrained confidence that keep them from being too showy. An appreciation for smooth jazz definitely seemed to trail through the pieces.

Goodwin is accompanying singer Dawn Derow’s cabaret show at The Duplex this Friday (61 Christopher St at 7th Ave). On December 10th, he’ll be performing at Darius De Haas’s Stevie Wonder tribute at Birdland.


Antar Goodwin’s web site:


The Duplex:

(Image from Goodwin’s Myspace page)


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