From the "All About Jazz" review by Derek Taylor (1997)
Bay-area based pianist Matthew Goodheart possesses a tremendous dynamism, which is ideally suited to the rigors of solo improvisation. His fingers employ the entire keyboard conjuring a range of sonorities that is stirring both in variation and immediacy. Alternately strident and soft his touch on the ivories juggles a mellifluous balance between brooding darkness and illuminating light. This disc marks Goodheart’s fourth release under his own name, though his talents have also been well documented as a contributor to improvising collectives under the leadership of others including Glen Spearman and Marco Eneidi. Goodheart’s wide-reaching interests have propelled him not only across the territories of jazz-based improvisation, but also through the landscapes of modern classical, Afro-Cuban and contemporary electronic music. The knowledge gleaned from explorations into each of these disparate styles comes into cooperative play on this beautifully executed solo recital.
The program is loosely divided into five pieces, though the disc’s divisions serve more as subjective signposts for the listener to attune his or hear bearings rather than as sharp demarcations. Each proceeding piece flows into the next with a fluidity that reflects Goodheart’s holistic approach to improvisation. “Sparks From the Ancient Sea” begins with a fragile flurry of notes and makes exquisite use of silence between repeated flourishes of melody. On “Structure for Piano No. 2” Goodheart carves a dense and deliberate edifice of sound from an initial array of sparse rumbling chords. As the piece progresses its melodic core serves as a cyclically recurring vantagepoint to survey the growing tide of subtle dissonance. “Can One Letter ‘Om’?” pays playful respects to Ornette Coleman by infusing some of his recognizable themes into a muscular, blues-grounded tour-de-force. Classical overtones coalesce with passages of vigorous improvisation on “Variations for Alvin Curran” and it is over this piece’s substantial length that Goodheart proves his adroit dexterity on the keys most. His skill at coaxing every possible permutation out of even the simplest melodic fragment is also magnificently rendered here. With the concluding “Shaker Melody” Goodheart abandons the keyboard proper and investigates the rich possibilities of his instrument’s innards, tugging and scraping at strings and rhythmically knocking on wood. The haunting theme, which closes the piece, dissipates to unanimous applause. Easily one of the most satisfying solo piano recordings in recent memory, this disc represents the work of a refreshingly original musician who will be one to watch in the coming years.
Recorded: November 7, 1996, New Langton Arts, San Francisco, CA.