August 5, 2019. There are talented composers and talented instrumentalists, and then there's Victor Gould who happens to be both. On Thoughts Become Things, his third album as a leader, Gould presents complex arrangements written for horns and string quartets and multiple percussionists that display his compositional sophistication. Ultimately, though, it's Gould's own piano playing that is most affecting.
The son of a flutist, Gould generously features the instrument he grew up hearing his father play; it's played beautifully here by Anne Drummond, especially on the title track, where Drummond coalesces with lush strings like communing watercolors, and on the next cut, "October," where Drummond's solo on alto flute soars over the top of Gould's Ahmad Jamal-sounding chord progressions.
The great Ahmad Jamal's influence on Gould's playing shows up throughout Thoughts Become Things; Gould's phrasing of chords is, at turns, unmistakably Jamal-esque, a quality most apparent on the latter half of Gould's sole composition for solo piano, "Brand New." Like Jamal's "Swazliland," this one is ripe for hip-hop/R&B sampling.
Among Gould's other influences are his many musical friends. And, as best friends usually do, Gould's show up for him in a big way here. Saxophonist Godwin Louis, one of Gould's closest, is given wide berth for an expansive soprano solo on the percussive, hard-driving "Karma Jones," where drummer Rodney Green similarly shines.
"Let it Go" sees tenor man, and fellow Berklee alum, Dayna Stephens drop in, almost unexpectedly, with a solo that is at once both celebratory and discordant.
And then there's Jeremy Pelt.
Gould has toured quite a bit recently with the A-list trumpeter (he’s also appeared on Pelt's last three albums), and Pelt shows that quid pro quo is alive and well among jazz musicians, playing on two tracks here—"Inheritance" and the immortal standard "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"— while lending Gould a couple of his bandmates, bassist Vicente Archer and percussionist Ismell Wignall.
The rendition of Van Heusen's "Polka Dots…" might seem out of place here, but I think it fits in the way a lemon rind does next to an espresso—as a perfect foil. And Pelt's interpretation of the classic can go right up there with historically celebrated takes by Blue Mitchell, Donald Byrd, and Chet Baker. This classic played by a duo of musicians as superb as Gould and Pelt, with such intuition and generosity, is, for all the grandeur of the rest of the album, the thing to be most cherished.