Between touring the world and heading the guitar department at Humber College, Jocelyn Gould has also just released her third recording as a leader called Sonic Bouquet.
Building on the success of her first two albums, the Juno-winning guitar, vocalist and compser’s latest studio album is intended to capture the spirit and spontaneity of a live club performance. Sonic Bouquet was recorded in a single day, immediately after Gould’s return to Toronto from a six-week, 33-show tour of the United States. Gould and her band had landed in Toronto together just in time to start a four-night run at the Rex Hotel. The morning after their last show, they entered the studio to record this nine-song set.
Gould’s ensemble features an unconventional front line of two guitars and clarinet. Hailing from all over North America and spanning three generations, the featured musicians include drummer Quincy Davis from Texas, bassist Rodney Whitaker and guitarist Randy Napoleon from Michigan, pianist Will Bonness from Winnipeg, and clarinetist Virginia MacDonald from Toronto.
Gould joined us to talk about the album.
Sonic Bouquet is one of the greatest album titles I’ve ever heard. It’s about the colours that all the different players bring to it, correct?
I was tossing around names for a while. I was out in the country in Manitoba and everything was so colourful, and I was thinking [about how] it’s an unusual but beautiful group of people that came together to record this album — kind of like a bouquet.
You recorded the album in one day after you and your band had played a really long run of shows. Was that the perfect time to get into the studio and capture what had been happening on the road?
Absolutely. There’s really nothing like performing live for people in different cities every single night. That was the ideal time. At the end of a tour, if you can record then, you should.
A lot of musicians will maybe have a four-night run, then a one-off here and a one-off there. But that experience of playing night after night and working out that material, it must be a completely different experience among all the players to have that continuity in their music.
I’ve been really lucky over the last couple of years to get to do some longer, extended tours over a month or two months. It’s really interesting, because if you look at jazz history, that’s how a lot of the greats played. That’s how a lot of these great records came to be. Throughout jazz history, the industry was different, touring was different, and bands would be on the road for months at a time. To get into that spirit of these records that we all love so much was very cool.
You recorded the album in one day. Was that pressure-filled, or was it because you were so tight that it was just like a live session?
I wanted to just get in there and play, and what happened would happen. It was meant to be imperfect in a perfect way. There’s a lot of beauty in imperfection. I wanted to get in there, play the song, and that’s what it would be.
You’ve got another terrific guitar player on this record, with Randy Napoleon alongside you. How did you start working together?
I moved from Winnipeg to Michigan in 2016 to study with Randy. The drummer on this album, Quincy Davis, had recommended him. Quincy was already my teacher, and he recommended that I move to Michigan and study with Randy. Randy and I got along great. He gave me my first professional gig subbing for him with Freddy Cole. After I finished studying with him, we became really great friends. When I sat down and asked myself which people I would like to have on this album, Randy was top of mind.
The material has popular standards, some lesser-known standards, and some original material. Was it what you had concocted in the live show, or were you choosing material in the studio as well?
Randy and I sat down and [talked about what] we want to play, and what we think will lend itself to the unusual instrumentation of two guitars, and the addition of a clarinet. We each wrote some material, and I arranged quite a few standards, and we wanted a blend — a record where there would be something for everybody. The repertoire, in a way, is also kind of what I’m talking about with the bouquet of flowers. Different things coming from different places.
Virginia MacDonald is the clarinet player who’s showing up everywhere. Tell me about working with her.
Since the first time I met her and played with her, [I’ve thought] she’s such a brilliant musician, so it was a no-brainer for me. I wanted some more Canadians on the album, and she came to mind immediately. Luckily she was in town and available.
The clarinet implies almost a more trad kind of sound, but it can also be extremely hip. The record, to me, has a trad-contemporary vibe to it. It has an old-school feel to it but done by musicians from multiple generations who are taking it in their own way.
Absolutely. That’s a really interesting thought — I suppose the sound of the clarinet does inspire memories from earlier in jazz history. Virginia can play anything on the clarinet. I’m really passionate about bebop and straight-ahead, and she’s right there with me.
You’ve got a new record, you’ve been touring a lot, and you’re also head of the guitar department at Humber. How difficult is it for a young musician to balance all of those things?
It is a lot, and I do have to use my organizational skills to their maximum capacity. But it’s all just so wonderful. I’m so excited to get up and go to the airport and fly somewhere to play a concert, and I love getting up to go to teach. Everything is so great, and when things are really great, I find I don’t run out of energy.
When you’re teaching young students today, where are they in the relationship with jazz? What do they want to focus on? Are people still interested in Wes Montgomery, or have they moved past that and on to something else?
Of course, young people are into different things, but I am excited to see that the younger generation is really into bebop. There are young people that are really into transcribing and learning the history of jazz and getting the language together. That’s so exciting. I think it’s wonderful to see it get passed on from generation to the next generation, the same way it was passed on to me a decade ago.
This interview has been edited and condensed.