Guitarist Jocelyn Gould Augments Virtuosic Playing Style Into Blues & Swing On ‘Elegant Traveler’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Canadian guitarist Jocelyn Gould’s Golden Hour is her follow-up to her Juno-winning 2020 debut Elegant Traveler.  Gould works with a core quartet augmented by saxophonist Jon Gordon on three tracks, as she features her virtuosic guitar in her style of swing, blues, soul, and groove, influenced by studying Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and Joe Pass. So, those are your reference points as you listen to this swinging, easy-rolling set of music. She also introduces her own vocals on three selections. Gould’s quartet, modeled on the classic guitar quartets which have inspired her, features pianist Will Bonness, bassist Rodney Whitaker and returning drummer Quincy Davis. Gould composed six of the compositions and interprets four standards. 

She begins with the title track, a swinging mid-tempo original that begins with Bonness comping to her free-flowing melodic lines before delivering a shimmering spot of his own. There’s a shout chorus that brings in both Whitaker and Davis in spirited exchanges with the leader before she takes it out with the engaging, uplifting melody. The open, dreamy ballad “Horizons” introduces her vocal which floats about the music, which changes meters in a few places as Gordon joins on alto, blowing a series of choruses before Gould and Whitaker each make lyrical statements. Her vocals are underpinned by her guitar and in one section Whitaker’s arco bass creates interesting harmonics. She follows with more vocalese in the samba “Serendipity,” another feature of Gordon’s alto as well. Davis sets a brisk steady pace for Bonness, Gould, and Gordon who swing hard, culminating in a rousing ending vamp as they all improvise over the melody. 

Gould goes solo in the spirit of Joe Pass on “Sweet Lorraine” while the core quartet returns for her original “Gemini,” initially a mid-tempo piece with long sustained notes before the bridge which takes it to a brisker, rapid run from both the pianist and guitarist, who shift back and forth in this way throughout, connoting the two personalities. Gould goes full-throttle on the standard “Lover Come Back to Me,” maintaining clear tone and articulation at dizzying speed, setting the pace for Bonness and for Davis’ explosive drum solo. She collaborates with Bonness in the duet, singing tenderly on “Cottage for Sale,” a courageous move considering the tune has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson, Julie London, and Tony Bennett, to name just a few. Her introspective guitar solo and the pianist’s beautiful accompaniment give the tune the requisite warm intimacy. “Willow Weep for Me” is another standard, rendered famously by Wes Montgomery, to whom Gould pays homage. “Tides are Turning” is a warm original ballad with brilliant, restrained lyrical contributions from each band member. while the closing original “Bright Note” shifts into bluesy, bebop territory with each quartet member and Gordon taking spirited turns and animated exchanges.

When one wins a JUNO with a debut, any follow-up would be tough. Golden Hour is a bit more intimate and stylistically rich. While she continues to check the boxes as a leader, composer, arranger, and most impressively as a finessed and swinging guitarist; she takes a further step here, proving to be a talented vocalist as well. 

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