Toronto-born guitarist Alex Goodman was the first Canadian to take the top prize in the Socar jazz electric-guitar competition and win the public choice award at last year’s Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
No stranger to awards, Goodman has also won, among others, the 2013 ASCAP Herb Alpert Jazz Composer Award and he was a finalist for the ASCAP Morton Gould Classical Composer prize last year.
Goodman, 27, said that awards bring “some legitimacy to what you’re doing” and help musicians get work in markets outside of where they live, as programmers pay attention to them. With the boost that the awards have given him, Goodman is in a position to plan a Canadian and European tour.
Currently living in New York, Goodman played regularly in Toronto’s jazz clubs up until 2-1/2 years ago. He’s returning to the city with his trio, including drummer Ari Hoenig and bassist Rick Rosato, for a two-night stand at The Rex on June 18 and 19, as part of this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival.
Goodman spent five years playing and composing in Toronto while studying music at the University of Toronto. He said he learned a lot from being part of the city’s vibrant jazz scene. “The core of what I do is influenced by my time there.”
But Goodman wasn’t always sure that he wanted a career as a professional musician. After high school, he studied political science and music at Montreal’s McGill University. At the end of second year, he realized that he would need to focus on one of the disciplines. “I wasn’t able to balance both,” he said.
After deciding to go with music, he returned to Toronto because he was offered opportunities to play in the city. “That’s where I started to get serious” about music, he added.
Goodman said he enjoys the improvisational aspect of playing jazz. “I like the ability to improvise and create music in the moment and interact with musicians around you and create something fresh.”
He added that what he appreciates about the jazz community is that “it has opened up not only to jazz traditions but other influences.”
Goodman listens to “music both within and outside the jazz world,” he said. He has an affinity for classical music as a performer and a composer, and he has “dabbled in classical guitar but never really got it to a professional level.”
A prolific composer, he has some 140 original works and arrangements listed on his website. Some of his arrangements are classically sourced. “I’ve studied the canon of classical music to learn from the great masters,” he said. “I also just really love the music.”
Goodman has also arranged the music of George Gershwin and Radiohead. And he knows how to swing, which you can hear on his Juno-nominated third recording, Bridges. Goodman recorded his fifth album in three nights at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro early in May.
The new as yet unnamed recording includes arrangements of works by Bartok, Mendelssohn, Scott Joplin and Harold Arlen, as well as some of Goodman’s originals.