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BMJ Collective with Alex Goodyear

BMJ Collective with Alex Goodyear, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 12/05/2024.

Photography: Photograph by Kasia Ociepa

by Ian Mann

May 14, 2024


As has been customary in this series much of this material was familiar, the treatment of it less so. All 3 musicians played superbly and once again a ‘BMJ Collective with’ show exceeded expectations.

BMJ Collective with Alex Goodyear, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 12/05/2024

Jack Mac (Jack McDougall) – tenor, alto & soprano  saxophones, vocals, Nick Kacal – double bass, Alex Goodyear – drums, percussion, vocals


BMJ Collective is essentially the house band of Black Mountain Jazz.

Originally formed in 2021 for that year’s ‘hybrid’ Wall2Wall Jazz Festival the line-up has undergone a number of personnel changes and currently features founder member Jack Mac on reeds and occasional vocals, together with Nick Kacal on double bass and Ryan Thrupp at the drums.

Mac, Kacal and Thrupp also act as tutors at the BMJazz Katz sessions which bring young people  together for regular jazz sessions at the Melville Centre, with the intention of forming a youth big band. Mac is heading the programme and the Katz, together with their tutors, have already made two public performances, both of which have been covered elsewhere on this site.

The idea of the tutors then performing for the public in the evening following the Sunday afternoon sessions is not only for ticket sales to contribute towards the teaching costs, but also for the students to see their tutors performing at their best and embodying the JazzKatz motto of “work, play, inspire”.

As these BMJ Collective gigs have now become regular events it is intended that a different guest musician will be invited to perform with the group each time. To date the   ‘BMJ Collective With’ series has featured vocalist Sarah Meek, pianists Ross Hicks and Michael Blanchfield and guitarist Chris Cobbson. All of these performances have been hugely enjoyable events and each has been reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.

Every performance has included an interesting selection of material sourced from the jazz canon and beyond, the majority of it chosen by the guest performer. All the gigs have exceeded my expectations, representing far more than the usual obligatory or perfunctory ‘house trio with guest soloist’ session.   As I have previously observed,  “this is a series of events that continues to punch well above its weight”.

The Mac / Kacal / Thrupp edition of the BMJ Collective has developed into a highly cohesive unit.  All are highly capable musicians who have established an impressive collective rapport that enables them to bring the very best out of their guests. They are also available as a ‘trio for hire’, either as a jazz combo or even as a function band.


Drummer Alex Goodyear studied jazz at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and remained in Cardiff following graduation, quickly establishing himself as a busy and vital presence on the South Wales jazz scene.

He became a great friend of Black Mountain Jazz and was the founder of the first version of the BMJ Collective, which was initially assembled to perform his “Journey of Trad” production at the 2021 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival. This represented a chronological journey through the history of early jazz, from the American Civil War (or “War Between The States”) to the beginning of World War 2, the programme ranging from  “civil war songs to post depression laments”.
Livestream review here;

In 2020 Goodyear led the ‘house band’ at the ‘Virtual Festival’ and in more normal times led his own Bop Septet at the 2019 Festival.

He has also appeared at BMJ / Wall2Wall events with vocalists Marvin Muoneke, Becki Biggins, Debs Hancock and Sarah Meek, saxophonists Alex Clarke and Dan Newberry, pianist Guy Shotton, trumpeter Jonny Bruce and with Kacal’s Guerillasound group.

In addition to his status as a ‘local hero’ Goodyear is a musician who is also acquiring an increasingly impressive national reputation. He performed brilliantly at a BMJ club date with visiting saxophonist Simon Spillett and is a regular member of groups led by pianist John Law and saxophonist Jon Lloyd, touring and recoding with both of these.

Another act to have attracted national attention is Yetii, the Bristol based trio featuring Goodyear, pianist Alex Veitch and bassist Ashley John Long, who released their debut album “Live at The Greenbank” in 2022. That recording is reviewed elsewhere on this site, as is “Three Elms”, the highly accomplished debut album from Cardiff based pianist and composer Ross Hicks, who leads a trio featuring both Goodyear and Kacal.

When I first noticed that the current edition of the BMJ Collective was inviting founding member Goodyear back for a show I initially wondered how it was going to work with two drummers.

However with Thrupp absent the gig was performed in the usual BMJ trio format as the group tackled a series of favourite compositions selected by Goodyear. These were largely chosen from the jazz standards canon but were subjected to some very interesting and colourful arrangements, with the focus very much on rhythm, perhaps not so surprising from a drummer led group.

Goodyear handled all the announcements, albeit subject to humorous interjections from the other band members. Loquacious and restlessly energetic Goodyear is a great champion of the music and his enthusiasm for jazz and for the art of drumming is infectious and transmits itself well to audiences.

The trio opened with “Pennies From Heaven”, with Goodyear introducing the tune at the kit. Mac was featured on tenor sax, soloing expansively with the support of Kacal’s rapid bass walk and Goodyear’s crisp drumming. Kacal is a fluent and able double bass soloist and he was also featured in this capacity, followed by tonight’s leader at the drums.

Mac moved to soprano sax for the Gershwin tune “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, which began quietly with Mac’s sax melodies underscored by Kacal’s languid bass and Goodyear’s delicate and sensitive brushwork. As Mac stretched out further he began to introduce klezmer and other Middle Eastern inflections as the intensity of the music began to build, with Goodyear graduating to sticks. He subsequently reverted to brushes for a series of sometimes humorous exchanges with Kacal’s bass. Finally Mac returned to solo for second time, and then to steer the piece home.

Goodyear informed us that the easy, sometimes irreverent, rapport exhibited by the trio was honed by a long running residency at the Lab 22 venue in Cardiff by The Bandits, a quartet featuring Goodyear, Mac and Kacal plus pianist Guy Shotton.
All this was by way of introducing “Black Orpheus”, a song by the Brazilian composer Luiz Bonfá. This was performed in a rhumba style and commenced with a remarkable passage of bare hand drumming from Goodyear, who eventually picked up his sticks as the momentum began to build. The performance also included the fluent soloing of Mac on tenor sax.

Vibraphonist Milt Jackson’s composition “Bag’s Groove” was played in a blues form and was ushered in by Kacal at the bass, who later soloed more expansively following Mac’s theme statement. The saxophonist’s tenor solo became increasingly raunchy, with Goodyear responding from the kit before enjoying his own drum feature.

The first half concluded with a “New Orleans Medley” that featured a segue of the song “St. James Infirmary Blues” and a second line tune.  Announcing this sequence Goodyear explained the concept of the second line with its array of drums, brass and woodwind and then informed us that some of the rhythms played by New Orleans street bands have now found their way into modern popular music, including such genres as funk and disco.
Mac was featured on alto sax and also sang powerfully off mic, with Goodyear answering him vocally from behind the kit.  Mac personalised the lyrics and also contributed an alto sax solo. The exuberant second line section included an extensive feature from Goodyear with the sound of cowbell augmenting the kit drums and with Goodyear demonstrating some of the rhythms of which he had spoken, with a particular emphasis on those of the bass drum. This section included further vocalising from Mac and Goodyear plus instrumental solos from alto sax and double bass.
It was a performance that harked back both to the origins of jazz and of the BMJ Collective itself.  I was very much reminded of the “Journey of Trad” production, a point I mentioned to Alex at half time.

Set two began with “Oleo”, a composition by the saxophonist Sonny Rollins that was also performed regularly by trumpeter Miles Davis. As Goodyear explained this is one of many “Rhythm Changes” tunes, new pieces written around the chord changes of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”. Introduced by Goodyear at the kit this really ‘kick started’ the second half and included solos from Mac on tenor and Kacal on double bass, plus a dynamic drum feature from Goodyear. Mac acknowledged the genesis of the piece by introducing the familiar melody of “I Got Rhythm” as the performance drew to a close.

Goodyear talked expansively about time signatures as he introduced an unusual arrangement of the standard “Autumn Leaves”, played in five and featuring Mac on soprano, Kacal on bass and Goodyear with another passage of hand drumming. This was one of the most distinctive and original versions that I’ve heard of this old chestnut.

The next piece also featured another unusual arrangement and was a version of the Bill Withers song “Just The Two Of Us” performed in the style of a Jobim samba with Mac featuring on alto sax alongside Kacal on double bass. A problem with the key pads on Mac’s alto occasioned a switch to soprano mid tune, but this failed to affect the trio’s momentum or composure as Goodyear rounded things off with a drum feature.

Goodyear announced “I’m an Old Cow Hand” as “a pop tune of the 1930s”. It’s a piece that has subsequently entered the jazz canon, most famously through Sonny Rollins’ version on his album “Way Out West”, but it has also been recorded by pianist Brad Mehldau, saxophonist Joshua Redman and most recently by the UK’s own QOW TRIO (saxophonist Riley Stone-Lonergan, bassist Eddie Myer and drummer Spike Wells).
BMJ’s version featured Mac on tenor and Goodyear providing a drum commentary in response to Kacal’s bass solo. The drummer’s own feature included the liberal use of cowbell – very appropriate.

To close the ever adaptable “Caravan” was towed by a propulsive Kacal bass groove and included a typically expansive and inventive tenor solo from Mac and a particularly dynamic drum solo from Goodyear,

With BMJ hosting three events in four weeks and with this gig sandwiched between shows from vocalist Zoe Gilby ( a five star sell out) and the upcoming Jazz Defenders this was one of the lowest attendances for some time. But the stay-aways missed a treat and what today’s audience lacked in size it more than made up for in terms of enthusiasm, with the trio returning to play a deserved encore.

Goodyear decided to cool things down and send us home with a ballad. This was a beautiful performance of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” with Kacal stating the melody on bass and also performing an unaccompanied solo. Mac’s playing on tenor was suitably tender while Goodyear demonstrated that he can also play with great sensitivity as he deployed a combination of brushes and mallets. A delightful way to end an excellent evening of music, that had again both entertained and informed.

As has been customary in this series much of this material was familiar, the treatment of it less so. All three musicians played superbly and once again a ‘BMJ Collective With’ show exceeded expectations. Very well done guys.

Further ‘BMJ Collective With’ shows will take place later in the year but details are yet to be announced.

Meanwhile Alex Goodyear is due to return to BMJ when he performs with vocalist Victoria Klewin on June 23rd and saxophonist Jon Lloyd on July 28th.

For details please visit;


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