The New York Times described him as a “post-bop pianist of exemplary taste and range,” and DownBeat Magazine added that he has “fast, witty reflexes, flow, and an accurate sense of narrative logic.” This gifted musician is Aaron Goldberg, who began his piano training at the age of seven and plays jazz since he was 14 years old. When he was 17, he moved to New York to study music at The New School but returned to Boston a year later to appease his parents, his father, a biochemist and mother, a hematologist, who wanted him to get an academic education. While attaining a degree in philosophy and psychology from Harvard University, magna cum laude, of course, he continued to play jazz and socialize with his fellow musicians from Berklee and New York, planting the seeds for long-lasting musical friendships with musicians such as Joshua Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Omer Avital and Mark Turner. At the age of 18, he was invited to join the Betty Carter program for young jazz artists and was Carter’s favorite pianist. He also collaborated with a great many artists including Guillermo Klein, Al Foster, Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Nicholas Payton, Wynton Marsalis, Stefon Harris.
He first met his trio members and friends, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, in the 1990s, when they were all students immediately sensing a connection. “There was never a feeling of having to tell them what I want or even what I want the trio to sound like,” he explains. “It was intuitive in the way that friendships are, or romantic relationships. It feels right and you find yourself growing, discovering things, getting somewhere new that you wouldn’t have gotten to alone. When you feel that connection, it opens a path to your subconscious — you can escape your preconceptions, the need for an agenda and you can just let the music be.” For more than two decades, this trio has been exploring, wittingly and keenly, the less familiar corners of the jazz repertoire, and as far as they are concerned, there are no two performances alike. Music is created, as Goldberg says, “in the dynamic plane of the present.” He considers this the magical uniqueness of jazz, “That record would sound totally different…if it’d been recorded five minutes later or even five seconds later.”
Goldberg (42) who has released five albums as a bandleader, and dozens more as a partner and accompanist, is fluent in every musical style, from Brazilian ballads to thundering bebop. With a deep understanding of the authenticity of jazz, a passion for swing, melody and groove, and enthusiastic appreciation for different musical cultures, he readily moves from original tunes to Brazilian and Haitian music and classics by Warne Marsh and Charlie Parker.
“I think that jazz ultimately, in addition to being a canon or a set of traditions, is also a set of tools that you develop as a musician that allows you to approach other jazz musicians with a kind of shared jazz sensibility. What that boils down to is basically improvisational skills as well as the idea that good music is always creative and flowing and changing. You can bring that jazz sensibility to hip-hop, you can bring that jazz sensibility to a whole bunch of different kinds of music, funk definitely.” The Aaron Goldberg Trio has that kind of jazz sensibility.
Aaron Goldberg Piano
Gregory Hutchinson Drums
Reuben Rogers Bass
Photographer: Alejandra Barragán