Jazz pianist Billy Test and bassist John Goldsby announce the release of their fourth duo album this year, Swim for Your Life. Building on the success of their previous three EPs, I’ll Be Around, Speak with a Purpose, and The Baden Baden Suite, the new recording is a testament to the close teamwork and telepathic musical relationship between Test and Goldsby. The duo’s intense dedication to swing, the blues, and modern harmonies is evident throughout the album as they explore the jazz tradition through ballads, blues, straight-eighth, pop-jazz, modern conversational improvisations, and original compositions. The album is available on all major streaming platforms.
Listen: Swim for Your Life
As members of the Grammy-winning WDR Big Band, Test and Goldsby continually explore a multitude of musical styles with some of the world’s best jazz musicians. They breathe and speak as one voice, showcasing harmonically rich music with a unique narrative.
Goldsby and Test approach “Ill Wind,” the only standard on the album, with a laid-back, pipe-and-slippers tempo. The duo revels in the achingly slow pace and urbane blues feeling. “Ill Wind” was composed by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for their last show at the Cotton Club in 1934, where it was sung by Adelaide Hall. The tune has been performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ben Webster to Lee Morgen.
“Otoño” is composed by John’s wife, pianist Robin Meloy Goldsby. The composition reflects a mixture of pop and jazz harmony, allowing the duo to explore sweeping, uncluttered sonic landscapes.
“April Tango,” also composed by Robin Meloy Goldsby, visits the world of tango. The composition suggests an intimate dance, anchored by the bass line and given wings by an inviting harmonic structure. Goldsby addresses his short yet powerful bass solo statement with the bow, tipping his hat to the tango tradition.
“Fall Calls” reveals the essence of autumn—an homage to the lush, dark, and poignant vibe of the fall season. Goldsby sings on the bass, leaving open vistas and luxurious space for Billy Test to weave a carpet of understated beauty underneath. Test’s solo statement is otherworldly; a virtuosic rendering framed by his elegant touch and deep harmonic imagination.
“Swim for Your Life” offers a playful romp through the blues. The unison intro and interlude lines are reminiscent of the Ahmad Jamal trio. Goldsby says: “‘Swim for your Life’ reflects our short frolic on this planet. It’s up to us to take every moment and grab the love, beauty, and swing found all around us.”
Swim for Your Life drops on all major streaming platforms on December 29, 2023. Test and Goldsby are performing album release concerts throughout 2024.