Growing up in a family whose members supported him and each other even as some went their own ways, Marcus Goldhaber was fortunate to see love in its many incarnations. On his new album, “Almost Love,” Goldhaber uses his volumes of material to craft a baker’s dozen of songs that celebrate and investigate all the wonders of the heart.
“My earliest [musical] influences were my family,” the 34-year-old Goldhaber tells JNS.org, recalling early days spent watching his mother play piano and his sister’s insistence that he try out for every school production he could find.
Goldhaber’s father—who recently took up the violin—was also an important influence since he was “always taking me to local concerts, operas and musicals as I was growing up.”
While many musicians take their cues from their parents and siblings, Goldhaber’s family influence extends one generation back.
“You could just as well trace it back to my grandfather who was a drum major in the marching band,” he notes, also mentioning how the love between his grandparents still inspires him. In fact, “Almost Love” is dedicated to them.
“Never were two people more in love,” Goldhaber recalls in the album’s liner notes prepared by Berklee College of Music professor Fred Bouchard.
From the gently comforting opening track “Love Me Tonight” (which takes its title from a 1932 Rodgers and Hart musical) or the musically and emotionally more complex “Hide Away,” to the anthemic title track and the swing of “Somebody In Love” (which is reminiscent of Annie Ross’ “Twisted”), to the gorgeously hopeful duet with Lauren Kinhan called “If I Knew Better,” Goldhaber’s album presents a broad range of sounds and ideas that fit inside the genre of jazz and the realm of love.
In producing an album of originals, Goldhaber hopes that he will be able to connect with listeners just as some of his own favorites connected with him. “When I first heard Chet Baker play a melody or Sarah Vaughn scat through…a bop or even a young Sinatra phrase a lyric,” he muses, “it all just made sense to me and I wanted to hear as much as possible.”
That drive to listen has helped Goldhaber become a walking encyclopedia of music. During his early days by his mother’s toe-tapping knee, Goldhaber explains that she would often ask him to name the song she was playing. “I usually did not know the song,” he admits. Those early failures to name that tune, however, pushed Goldhaber to investigate and explore the songs his mother said he “should know.”
The result is his deep knowledge of the writers and artists who made the Great American Songbook great. Goldhaber is more than happy to share that knowledge with his audiences, many of whom learn as much as they enjoy when they come to hear him.
Though he admits that jazz and the Great American Songbook may not be the popular forms they once were, Goldhaber maintains that it has not been difficult to maintain his allegiances to these genres. “There are so many writers that have been influenced by songs outside of there primary genre,” he suggests, “so this music fit rather well into mix of sounds with which I have always surrounded myself.”
When asked what drew him (and continues to draw him) to these songs, Goldhaber explains that he has always appreciated and admired the ease with which they get their musical messages across. “The simplicity…is often a foundation in the melody and lyrics,” he says. “I find it relaxing, energizing and inspiring.”
Though most of his music has come from other writers, Goldhaber was inspired to try his own hand at composing for “Almost Love.” Though some of these songs had been taking shape over time, he admits that the decision to record them was late in coming.
“We decided to do this about a month before we went into the studio,” he recalls. “I wanted to do this all along, but I was very hesitant, being a new writer and having a bunch of exciting new arrangements of standards that I wanted (and still want) to record.”
He says his musical cohorts—music director/pianist Jon Davis and producer/drummer Marcello Pellitteri—were “pretty insistent” and also “reassuring…that the original album was the way to go.”
The result has already begun to prove them right. Critics from local jazz experts to People magazine have hailed Goldhaber as a “youthfully carefree sweet tenor” who “will have you giddy one moment and melancholy the next and loving every note.” He has also been praised for his “accessible songwriting” and “intimate approach” that combines all the best elements of Chet Baker, Harry Connick Jr. Art Garfunkel and John Pizzarelli.
“Each song has a different source of inspiration,” Goldhaber suggests, “but the common thread is that each introduces a unique perspective toward love, a different journey through love or a moment inside love.”