geshSMOC talk: Aaron Goldberg

CHECK IT: The following marks the first installment in what will hopefully become the second main ingredient in a totally tricked-out podcast to be featured on Shemspeed, once the upcoming camera setup gets rollin’ and the editing tech gets fired up. Any musician or band as psyched as we are in sparking this imminent blowout should contact

Earlier this month, Shemspeed had the sweet treat of attending the granddaddy of all jazz festivals, held every August since ’54 by visionary Jewish jazz promoter George Wein and the late Elaine Lorillard. Practically every big name in the worlds of jazz, blues, and even rock n’ roll have stormed Fort Adams State Park for the Newport Jazz Festival for now over 50 years. As we had the privilege of taking in this legendary celebration of music, Shemspeed seized the chance to chat it up with Aaron Goldberg for this premiere edition of geshSMOC talk.

What separates you from the pack in the world of jazz?

Well, I’ve been playing with my trio for 12 years now – 15 years with Reuben – and that’s very rare in the world of jazz for a band to stay together for so long. They’re my dear friends, and we’ve developed a unique group sound. Over time, we have intuitively built a style organically, and not with too much conceptualization.

On your website, you list several quotes from your prominent peers. Wynton Marsalis has called you a “modern improviser of great clarity,” and Joshua Redman duly notes your “boundless imagination and burning intensity.” How do you define yourself as a musician?

I’m pretty hard to categorize stylistically. Over the years, I’ve played as a sideman for a lot of bandleaders with varying orientations and stylistic bents. For example, I’ve played with Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Jazz Orchestra (now known as a repertoire these days), and they play music from the 20’s all the way to today – yet I’ve also played with Kurt Rosenwinkel’s band, and Kurt’s one of the most progressive, modern, “electric” guitar players. In that sense, I wouldn’t say I’m trying to be eclectic, but rather, I’m trying to keep my mind open and learn as much as I can by playing with as many different people whose music I love. I haven’t tried to define myself with a narrow stylistic range, and I think that’s becoming increasingly common in the jazz world. My generation [arguably] is a little more divided between the more traditional camp and a looser modern camp, and I refuse to define myself in any particular camp. I just try to follow the music that I love, and as a result, now that I’m a bandleader, I’ve tried to lead with that open philosophy. We explore styles and traditions that move us, drawing from all parts of the world – from jazz and other popular music – and that stylistic diversity and open-mindedness is really what makes us different.

Is there any particular chart or album that sticks out in your mind that defines your ensemble’s sound above all others?

Given my answer to the last question, that’s a very difficult question to answer. [However], our last album Worlds – especially the first tune, “Lambada de Serpente,” originally sung by a great Brazilian composer named Djavan Caetano Viana – captures the spirit of that album. Worlds as a whole displays what we do well, and it would make a great introduction for your listeners.

In what way, if any, has being Jewish influenced how you create and/or perform music?

(laughs) My music has not been particularly informed by Jewish music [specifically], however I did grow up with a wonderful family (my parents LOVED music), singing in the synagogue – in some ways, all of that informed my general musicality. My deepest answer to your question, though, is that my relationship with Israeli jazz musicians has informed my music a lot, and I don’t know if I would have been approached to the same degree by these musicians in both Israel and New York if I wasn’t Jewish or as diverse as I am in my music.

Stay tuned for a taste of Worlds by the Aaron Goldberg Trio ONLY on


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