Interview: Guitarist Geoff Goodman on Musical Origins, Working with Charlie Mariano, and Making Three Albums with Drummer Bill Elgart including Jazz + Haiku (2011)

Among jazz players New York-born Geoff Goodman has collaborated with over the years include Marty Cook, Chris Hirson, Tony Lakatos, Charlie Mariano, Jörn Pfenning, Larry Porter, Allan Praskin, Nicolas Simion, Ed Schuller, Mal Waldron, Thomas Zoller, and three albums with Massachusetts-born drummer, and fellow European expat, Bill Elgart.

In addition to composing, the guitarist, banjo, and mandocello player has formed several groups including the Geoff Goodman Quintet, Misery Loves Company, Tabla and Strings, Curiosities of Nature, the Metal, Wood & Wire Quartet, the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet, and the Goodman-Turku Duo. The German-based musician has toured across Europe and Northern Africa and released more than a dozen albums as a composer, performer, and bandleader including the 2015 releases Inverted Forest by the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet and At The Middle with vocalist Fjoralba Turku.

Geoff Goodman (from www.geoffgoodman.com)

Geoff Goodman (from geoffgoodman.com)

East Coast Roots

Geoff Goodman was born in New York City and studied at several schools in the nearby New England states of Maine and Massachusetts including Boston University and the University of Massachusetts.

Q: Was there a particular program or faculty member that drew you from New York City to first attend Boston University and then study at the University of Massachusetts?

A: I left New York when I was 18, went to B.U., then followed a woman up to Portland, Maine and studied there for a year or two before I transferred to the UMass after I had enough of Maine… At UMass there was Archie Shepp, at Hampshire College (part of there five college program) Vishnu Wood. I also studied with Lewis Spratlin (Composition) and David Reck (Ethnomusicology) at Amherst college.

Q: Did you first meet Bill Elgart on the East Coast?

A: No, we met for the first time in Salzburg, Austria. Bill was living there and I was passing through with Chris Hirson.

Five Albums With Chris Hirson

Geoff Goodman made four albums with American saxophone and flute player Chris Hirson as a duo and a fifth as part of a quartet between 1987 and 1997. They first toured Europe in 1979.

Hirson - Goodman Quartet - Nudism (1994)

Hirson/Goodman Quartet – Nudism (1994) Musikverlag Harald Burger & Martin Müller

Q: How did you and Chris Hirson first meet?

A: Chris and I met in high school. We’ve known each other since we were 16.

Q: Where did the idea to relocate to Europe originate?

A: We weren’t planning at first to “relocate” to Europe. The initial plan was just to do an open-ended trip. We both wanted to leave the States: disco was on the rise and most of the music we were listening to was coming out of Europe… one thing led to another and we ended up staying here [Goodman has lived in Europe since 1986, currently based in München, Germany]

Hirson / Goodman - Human Lives (1997)

Hirson / Goodman – Human Lives (1997) Acoustic Music Records

Making Music With Charlie Mariano

In 2008, Geoff Goodman’s Tabla & Strings: Song Of Nature was released on TUTU Records, featuring Bernd Hess on electric and acoustic guitars, Tobias Ott on tabla, Fjoralba Turku on vocals, Goodman on mandocello, banjo, and electric guitar, and Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone

Geoff Goodman's Tabla and Strings - Song Of Nature (2008)

Geoff Goodman’s Tabla and Strings – Song Of Nature (2008) TUTU Records

Q: How did you first get the chance to play with another jazzman from New England, the legendary Charlie Mariano?

A: We first met when we toured together with Bill and Carlo Mombelli–I was subbing for Peter O’Mara, lucky for me. That was around ’92. [Bill Elgart, Carlo Mombelli, Charlie Mariano, and Peter O’Mara recorded Happy Sad in 1990.]

Q: What about doing an album together?

A: Years later Peter Wiesmüller from, TUTU Records had the idea to do the second Tabla and Strings CD with him. I asked him and he said okay. I also brought in Fjoralba Turku, she was 24 and I believe Charlie was 84.

Geoff Goodman's Tabla and Strings - Song Of Nature (2008) CD booklet crop

Fjoralba Turku and Tobia Ott (back row) Geoff Goodman, Charlie Mariano, and Bernd Hess (front row) from 2008 CD booklet

Three Albums With Bill Elgart

Drummer Bill Elgart and Geoff Goodman’s musical collaborations began with concerts in the early 1990s and continue with a recent series of performances as members of the Metal, Wood & Wire Quartet, with Ardhi Engl and Sebi Tramontana. Elgart and Goodman have also made three albums and one single together between 2000 and 2011.

Q: Is the Jazz + Haiku album in 2011 by your Curiosities of Nature group the first time you and Bill Elgart recorded together?

A: No, we recorded together previously on my Charles Ives’ CD [Alison Welles & Geoff Goodman – Songs Of Charles Ives And Other American Songs (2000)] and on Thomas Zoller’s Songs Close To Silence album on Enja [in 2002].

Songs of Charles Ives and Other American Songs (2000)

Alison Welles and Geoff Goodman – Songs of Charles Ives and Other American Songs (2000) Musikverlag Harald Burger & Martin Müller

“The Battle Cry of Freedom,” a song written by composer George Frederick Root of Sheffield, Massachusetts in 1862, is a free interpretation of one of Charles Ives’ favorite quotes and features Alison Welles on vocals, Geoff Goodman on electric guitar, and Bill Elgart on drums:

Q: When did the initial version of Curiosities of Nature form?

A:  Fjoralba and I had the idea to form a band which wasn’t world music and also not totally jazz. I think this was around the summer of 2008. Our first gig was a summer week at the Unterfahrt in Munich. The program and personnel changed a lot. That December we did a Rundfunk recording where we recorded the first haikus.

Jazz + Haiku Released in 2011

Jazz + Haiku, an album of songs that composer Goodman transposed from Japanese poetry, primarily from 17th and 18th century masters Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa, was released in 2011. This new version of Curiosities of Nature features an international cast of players including Germans Till Martin on tenor saxophone and clarinet and Henning Sieverts on bass, Americans Bill Elgart on drums and Geoff Goodman on guitar, Albanian singer Fjoralba Turku on vocals, and Japanese artist Kiyomi who recites the haikus.

Jazz + Haiku players (photo by Pakzad)

Jazz + Haiku players including Bill Elgart, Henning Sieverts, Till Martin, Kiyomi, Fjoralba Turku, and Goeff Goodman (photo by Pakzad)

Q: Where did your interest in Japanese haiku come from?

A: I was thinking about how I could write songs for Fjoralba to sing without writing embarrassing lyrics. I’ve also always been a fan of reduction in many forms, also my playing, my chords, my choice of notes, are often small and few… I was aware of haiku, but never really delved into it. I got a hold of a book and within hours I had written the first three haiku tunes.

Geoff Goodman, with Bill Elgart, Kiyomi, Till Martin, Henning Sieverts, and Fjoralba Turku - Jazz plus Haiku (2011) Double Moon Records [Germany] (DMCHR 71089)

Geoff Goodman – Jazz + Haiku (2011) Double Moon Records

Q: How long did it take for this unique project to develop? Was it your idea?

A: It was my idea and I worked about two years developing the program and still write haiku tunes for Fjoralba.

Q: How did this eclectic group of artists come together for this project?

A: Through me. Obviously I knew Henning, Bill and Till, and I was also working with Fjoralba. I just had to search awhile for Kiyomi.

A video of Geoff Goodman and the Curiosities of Nature’s performing “Bamboo Children” live 8 March 2012 is online, featuring Bill Elgart on drums, Kiyomi on recitations, Andi Kurz on bass, Till Martin on tenor saxophone, and Fjoralba Turku on vocals:

A closer look at Jazz+Haiku which includes live tracks that didn’t appear on the album, part of an expanded version of this interview, is HERE.

“Strange Things” Digital Single

Besides recording the 13-track Jazz + Haiku album in 2011, Geoff Goodman and the Curiosities of Nature players, recorded and released a digital-only single the same year, “Strange Things.” The same composition was revisited by Goodman and Turku on their 2014 At The Middle album on TUTU Records.

Geoff Goodman - Strange Things (2011)

Geoff Goodman – Strange Things (2011) Double Moon Records [Single]

The earlier version of “Strange Things,” featuring Bill Elgart on drums, Till Martin on tenor saxophone, Henning Sieverts on bass, Fjoralba Turku on vocals, and Goodman on guitar is currently available at music retailers including iTunes and Amazon, the latter which also has copies of Jazz+Haiku in CD and as a Digital Download.

Geoff Goodman and Fjoralba Turku’s stripped-down version, later renamed “Space Between Us,” is online:

The Latest from Goodman and Turku

Last fall’s At The Middle album was the third of a series of collaborations showcasing the talents of composer-guitarist Goodman and vocalist Turku. Downloadable MP3 files of four album cuts, “At The Middle,” “Space Between Us (aka Strange Things),” “Within You, Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows,” and “Vals I Lumturis” are currently found on the CD page of Goodman’s website HERE as well as at a website dedicated to the duo’s various musical projects HERE.

Geoff Goodman and Fjoralba Turku in 2015

Geoff Goodman and Fjoralba Turku in 2015

Q: How did you and Fjoralba first meet?

A: Fjoralba and I first met at a workshop I was giving at Jazz Projekt here in Munich. It’s the jazz school I’ve been teaching at for over 10 years. She enrolled in my ensemble workshop. I was immediately taken by her voice, and eventually asked her to join Tabla and Strings….It was the beginning of our friendship and musical career together.

Q: Do you and Fjoralba have any more albums planned?

A: We’re planning our next CD, it will focus more on “roots” music, Albanian and American: “Blues, Ballads and Folk Songs.”

Geoff Goodman and Fjoralba Turku - At The Middle (2015) Double Moon Records

Geoff Goodman and Fjoralba Turku – At The Middle (2014) Double Moon Records

The title cut from Geoff Goodman and Fjoralba Turku’s current release, At The Middle, is on YouTube:

Goodman-Bordenave Quintet Release Debut CD

In June 2015, the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet released Inverted Forest album on Double Moon Records. The lineup consists of Matthieu Bordenave on saxophone, Gerhard Gschlößl on trombone, Bastian Jütte on drums, Andreas Kurz on bass, and Geoff Goodman on guitar.

a recent shot of the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet

a recent shot of the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet

Q: How long did the group play together before cutting the debut album?

A: When we first started, about four years ago, we went through a lot of personnel changes. The present group of players has been in existence for about two years.

Q: Where will the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet perform in the second half of 2015?

A: We have a CD release tour in November in southern Germany. Another tour for March 2106 is currently in the planning stages, as well.

A special thanks to Geoff Goodman for allowing this site to create several videos including the following for “Here We Are Now,” the tenth track on the Goodman-Bordenave Quintet’s Inverted Forest album:

Upcoming Metal, Wood and Fire Concerts

Metal, Wood & Wire, a duo composed of Ardhi Engl and Geoff Goodman, expanded to a quartet in 2012 with the addition of Bill Elgart and Sebi Tramontana. The group continues to perform on a regular basis.

Metal, Wood and Fire in 2012

Metal, Wood and Wire in 2012

Q: Any future gigs planned with the Metal, Wood & Wire Quartet?

A: In February, Metal, Wood and Wire will do a few gigs including Berlin, Magdeburg, and Munich.

Q: How about an album?

A: We may record something next year…

More information and music is found at the group’s website HERE.

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Inverted Forest (2015) Double Moon

Inverted Forest (2015) Double Moon

And one final Jazz + Haiku non-album cut, “Fifth Chromosome,” recorded live 8 March 2012 at BR Studio featuring Bill Elgart on drums, Kiyomi on recitations, Till Martin on tenor saxophone, and Andi Kurz filling in for Henning Sieverts on bass: