Album Review: Jocelyn Gould – Elegant Traveler

Elegant Traveler is the debut album from Canadian guitarist Jocelyn Gould. Despite being a late comer to music (she began a science degree, and hated it) Gould has more than made up for lost time, developing into an accomplished guitarist and a composer of well-crafted jazz pieces.

The album’s ten tracks are mostly Gould’s original compositions, with three standards thrown in for good measure. Book-ended by Cole Porter’s “It’s Alright With Me” (taken at a furious tempo) and Duke Ellington’s “All Too Soon”, it’s Gould’s excellent original tunes that really make this album worth listening to – all expertly performed by a group of younger, but highly accomplished, musicians.

With the exception of one unaccompanied track, the album features Addison Frei on piano, George DeLancey on double bass and drummer Quincy Davis. Frei is a wonderful foil for Gould, contributing a number of melodic and intricate solos and interacting with Gould with great simpatico throughout. DeLancey and Davis prove themselves to be a swinging rhythm section.

Frei really earns his keep on the medium paced blues of “The Game Changer”. This track has become a real favourite of mine, with Frei giving a masterclass in blues piano, and Gould demonstrating that, she too, can get downright bluesy when she chooses.

Rogers and Hammerstein’s “It Might As Well Be Spring” has long been one of my favourite standards. Gould presents it as a solo feature, the only track on which the rhythm section isn’t present. Unaccompanied jazz guitar is one of the most difficult things to pull off, and Gould demonstrates just how it should be done. It’s a masterful performance.    

To the core quartet, Gould adds guest horn players on certain tracks. Trumpeter Anthony Stanco and trombonist Michael Dease both appear on “Change of Plans” which has a real Jazz Messengers feel. This song really captures that hard bop vibe, transporting the listener to New York in the late ‘50s. The addition of tenor saxophonist Brandon Wright creates a three horn frontline for Gould’s up-tempo swinger “Argyle”.

Each of the three horn players also gets a solo spotlight, accompanied by the quartet. Trombonist Dease’s solo feature is the gorgeous “In A Daydream”. The song begins in an impressionistic mode with guitar and piano ringing out like bells over arco double bass and mallet cymbal washes. The trombone brings in the melody as the rhythm section settles into a slow bossa nova. The simplicity of the melody obscures how artfully the composition is constructed.     

Tenor saxophonist Wright’s solo feature is “Center of the Universe”. The song’s angular melody throws out some rhythmic curve balls, creating a Monkish mood. The appropriately boppish solos from Wright, Gould and Frei are all brief but powerful statements.  

Trumpeter Stanco’s feature spot is on Ellington’s “All Too Soon”. This track begins with a half chorus of Gould’s superb unaccompanied guitar playing before closing out the album in a mellow medium ballad tempo.

Elegant Traveler is a well paced debut album which leaves no doubt that Jocelyn Gould is both a powerful new voice in jazz guitar, and an accomplished composer. I recommend getting a copy.

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