Live Jazz: Larry Goldings at Vitello’s

By Don Heckman

Keyboardist Larry Goldings’sappearance at Vitello’s Friday night was a dramatic contrast from his usual musical environments.  A regular with James Taylor, his resume also reaches from Christina Aguilera and John Mayer to Jim Hall, Norah Jones and beyond.  At other times, he leads his own stellar organ trios.

For this gig, however, Goldings had  a different perspective in mind.  His latest album, In My Room (BFM Jazz), has just been released.  And the Vitello’s performance was, for the most part, a live sampling of the solo piano selections on the CD.

Goldings is a much praised organist, and his approach to the piano similarly views the instrument as a kind of self-contained orchestra.  It’s a way of approaching the keyboard that can produce intriguing results.

His Americana version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” was a rich tapestry recalling brass bands, stride pianists and the high spirited atmosphere of a ballpark.  “Beautiful Dreamer” was colorful, too, in a very different way.  The interpretation was enhanced by the textural addition of a music box, bringing showers of dramatic, often piquantly dissonance plinks and plunks to the familiar sweet harmonies.

The full range of the imaginative thinking Goldings brought to the evening reached from the opening number, a sweetly lyrical rendering of Brian Wilson’s “In My Room” to Golding’s original “Roach” (dedicated to Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln).  The latter, rhythmically disjunct piece, might best be described as a six bar blues in 5/4.

Occasionally, there were times when Goldings’ approach to the keyboard moved into areas of heaviness that tended to lose touch with the instrument’s potential for gentle sounds and subtle tonal coloration.  But at its best the performance — which also included the occasional participation of bassist David Piltch and singers Gaby Moreno and Alex Lilly — was an impressive display of  Golding’s always adventurous solo excursions across the length and breadth of the concept of the piano-as-orchestra.

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