Interview and story by J Hunter
I was at a professional seminar the other day when I saw a PowerPoint slide that had me stunned for a moment: “There is no such thing as Multi-Tasking.” Okay, if we postulate that a human being isn’t an air-breathing octopus with eight arms that can build a better mousetrap AND write the Great American Novel while it’s making a hearty breakfast for its human/octopi-hybrid family, I guess that is technically true. But the human mind is a marvelous little machine with a ton of neurons firing every single second, and not all of them are focused on what you’re posting on Facebook or your teeth-gritting effort to not spill your coffee while walking over to your cubicle. In other words, there’s a lot going on underneath while you’re doing your best to get through your day.
Take, for example, clarinetist-composer Ben Goldberg, who’s become a musical icon in the Bay Area over the last couple of decades. To say Goldberg has multiple interests is like saying Lewis Hamilton likes to drive fast. I got turned on to Goldberg in 2009 through a semi-super group jazz disc called Go Home, which Goldberg used to launch his record label BAG Productions. But if you look over the various projects littered throughout his discography (the alt-folk outfits Tin Hat and Junk Genius, the New Klezmer Trio, Clarinet Thing, and two utterly opposite recordings he released simultaneously in 2013), and you get the impression Goldberg is playing 12-dimensional chess while the rest of us are playing checkers – badly!
Now, it is possible to play 12-dimensional chess by yourself… I imagine. But most games are more fun if you’ve got someone to play with. When it comes to that, Goldberg’s favorite partner for one-on-one games is next-level pianist Myra Melford. Both players have recorded duets with other artists (Melford most recently with Australian pianist Alister Spence), and both artists have truly unique projects on their respective resumes: Melford’s includes Alison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, the bands Snowy Egret and Trio M, and her own Be Bread Ensemble, which Goldberg joined in 2010.
But to listen to Goldberg and Melford play together – as they do on their latest collaboration Dialogue – is to listen to a kind of synchronicity that shouldn’t be possible for people who haven’t experienced the Vulcan Mind Meld. It’s akin to watching two people work together on building a stained-glass window, never talking to each other once, and the thing comes out dead-solid perfect. To hear that (and to see it on the concert video shot of Myra and Ben in 2013) is to hear two creative soul mates flying in intricate formation, performing acrobatic feats that the Blue Angels wouldn’t even consider attempting.
We get to see Melford and Goldberg perform the aforementioned musical magic at 7pm this Sunday (November 16) at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. Ben was good enough to take a few minutes and talk about this project (among other things):