Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2007

Music Accordion To Gil

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If you Google Gil Goldstein, 726,000 entries come up! The internationally-known music composer, arranger and producer has worked with some of the jazz greats including Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Herbie Mann and Bobbie McFerrin. During his career he's won four Grammies for arranging and producing Chris Botti, Michael Brecker's "Wide Angles," Sting's version of "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" and Randy Brecker's, "Into the Sun."

His renowned work has also caught the ear of Hollywood with two dozen film soundtracks in his credits, and he was signed onto the Kevin Kline film, De-Lovely, where he coached Kline on the piano and performed the Cole Porter classic, "I Love Paris." He also played all of the accordion parts since Goldstein is one of the few jazz musicians who plays the accordion and has since the age of five.

"It's my first memory," said Goldstein, who splits his time between Brooklyn and the North Fork, where he lives with his wife, artist Ellen Nora. "My dad said he was going to get me an accordion and I asked, what if I make a mistake? He said, 'Don't worry, just keep playing.' That was the best advice he ever gave me." It would teach young Goldstein that it was okay to make mistakes, and as he got older he gradually smoothed out the imperfections.

Goldstein earned his bachelors and masters in piano and a Ph.D in music education and in 1982 he went on to write The Jazz Composer's Companion for Advance Publishing. For the last three years he's shared his 30 years of experience and love for music with private school students and NYU graduates, where he is a professor, teaching piano, arranging and composing.

As a child Goldstein's taste for music was rock, Elvis Presley and Juan Garcia Esquivel, the king of Space Age pop. "He somehow awoke in me how to arrange music. Although I wasn't a good music student because I didn't read music that well, I learned early how to arrange," Goldstein said. It was his mother who taught him the fundamentals of Jazz.

A series of accidents were responsible for Goldstein's decision to enter the music business. He attended Berkley College of Music in 1970 and slowly committed to studying music as a profession. In 1973, while studying at the University of Miami, he met Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius, who were also students. "I thought they might have the opportunity to really make music and be a national presence in the music community. They and a few others were sort of like my role models that I continue to work with," Goldstein said.

In 1982 Goldstein met pianist Gil Evans who was a strong influence in his life encouraging him to become an arranger. "I felt more related to him than any other professional I had ever encountered," remarked Goldstein. "I liked the idea of being in the background . . . the one who pulls things together rather than the center of attention."

Ironically, there would be two Evans that would greatly influence Goldstein — pianist Bill Evans (no relation) also made his mark on the composer. "Bill was very nice and willingly shared his knowledge and experiences, offering a lot of support. I was a fan of both of them and they accepted me as a colleague . . . eagerly sharing their knowledge of music," Goldstein remembered. "I have been extremely lucky in my career in that I've worked with most of the people I wanted to; The Brecker Brothers, individually, David Sanborn and many others."

There are some arrangers with distinct styles that try to make the artist sound their way. Not Goldstein. "I try to bend for the artist and develop a musical style specifically for them by trying to tailor things to suit the unique artist I'm working with. My job is only successful when the artist feels comfortable with what I've created for them," Goldstein explained.

Goldstein still does most of his composing by pencil and paper, incorporating a laptop with music writing software. "Usually a creative spark happens away from the technology and I like to think I'm one of the last holdouts of small orchestras. I try to encourage people I work with to use more traditional instruments in new combinations and in creative ways. There will never be a substitute for real people," he stated.

While kids are listening to rap and hip hop music Goldstein chooses not to. "I don't know anything about that genre of music. I am nostalgic in my musical taste . . . Time has created a lot of musical gems, like James Taylor and Paul Simon, both of whom I've worked with. I think music is in a rut now . . . including me," he said. "Classical, jazz, rock — they're all in a retro, neo classical phase trying to reinvent themselves. No one has been able to do that or come up with a new genre. I'd like to think the new musical forms will include rhythm, melody and harmony, and don't think that current creations are reinventing the language. I hate to think that music 2000 years ago, or even 300 years ago, is more interesting or complete than today's."

In 2007 Goldstein's record, Under Rousseau's Moon, featuring Richard Bona, Mike Maineri, Chris Potter, Randy Brecker and Don Alias will be released. Also expect to hear his work on new releases from Michael Brecker, Juliet Greco, Abby Lincoln and Boz Scaggs with a rendition of the standards.

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