Jun 25, 2012 - Aaron Goldberg Plays Tulsa's Jazz Depot



Billboard magazine called him “a talented artist whose calling card is unadorned musicianship.” The Chicago Sun-Times added, “A bright young talent. . . telepathic. . . a first-rate pianist.” And, according to the Edmonton Sun, “Goldberg is one of the most impressive pianists on the scene . . . especially good at creating intricate, haunting chamber music.”

The recipient of these accolades, Aaron Goldberg, is set to play a concert Thursday, June 28, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St.  Tickets can be bought at the depot or by calling Bettie Downing at918-281-8609. Ticket prices are $10 for Jazz Hall Members and Seniors, General admission tickets are $15.  Refreshments will be available for purchase.  

Born in Boston, Goldberg began studying classical piano at the age of seven.

“I didn’t know anything about jazz,” he told interviewer Joao Moreira dos Santos in a 2007 interview for All About Jazz magazine.  “I had never even heard a note of jazz. My parents liked classical music and they had a piano in the house.

“I never would have discovered jazz,” he added, “if I hadn’t gone to my high school, because there was a guy there who studied at Berklee [College of Music], Bob Sinicrope, who was a math teacher at my high school and then started to teach jazz classes.”

Sinicrope made young Goldberg a mix tape of jazz recordings he considered important, which is how the pianist first encountered such musical greats as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Horace Silver. “[Sinicrope] was smart enough to realize that the most important thing for a kid who wants to learn jazz is to listen to jazz all the time,” Goldberg said,” because we grow up listening to bad pop music and you need to fill your brain with good sounds.”

Soon, Goldberg was making plenty of those good sounds himself. Upon graduation from high school, at the age of 17, he studied at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, which he believes was the turning point in his career as a musician.  After a year, he left and enrolled at Harvard, where he became a member of the Jazz Ahead program, in which legendary vocalist Betty Carter gave young talent a chance to perform with her.

“She knew she wasn’t going to be around for too much longer, and she knew that we had to carry on the music, which meant, first, that we had to learn as much as we could from people like her, and second, that her audience had to be introduced to us so that they would follow us when she was gone,” he told his All About Jazz interviewer. “She considered herself a teacher, a jazz educator . . . . [S]he didn’t teach technical aspects of music; she just showed you how it was done, and she encouraged you to perform at your best, to push you beyond what you were capable of, to help you to explore new places in the music. She did that in part for you and because she was generous and because she saw you as the future of the music, and she also did it because that’s what she liked to hear: she liked to hear young people going for it.”

Graduating from Harvard in 1996, Goldberg soon made his presence known on the New York City jazz scene, working with, among others, saxophonists Greg Tandy and Joshua Redman, bassist Reuben Rogers, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and drummer Al Foster.  In 2005, he spent several months as pianist with the Wynton Marsalis Quartet.

In addition to appearing on several discs as a sideman, Goldberg began recording albums under his own name with 1999’s Turning Point. His most recent CD, Yes!, is a collaboration with drummer Omer Avital and bassist Ali Jackon. It was released earlier this year on the Sunnyside Communications label.           

“I believe music has been handed down to me by all those other great musicians I have played with,” Goldberg told Jazz Ahead. “Al Foster played with Miles and he handed the music to Al. Al handed the music to my generation, to me and my friends. Even people like Wynton, who is just one generation older, is always talking about, `This music is in your hands, you’re going to be the carrier of this tradition, don’t let it die.’

“Jazz is not about copying the stuff that came before you,” he added. “It’s about imitating, assimilating, and then looking ahead and looking inside yourself to find out who you are. . . . So as long as we continue to look backward and forward and inside at the same time, and also draw from each other, each generation will create new music that is of the moment.”                        

The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.