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Joshua Redman Comes Back East to Blues Alley

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  • May. 11, 2007
    Joshua Redman Comes Back East to Blues Alley

    DCist

    The sax/bass/drums trio is an interesting format for a jazz band. Back East, saxophonist Joshua Redman's latest release, marks his first foray into this lineup. The excellent album features Redman along with a variety of drummers, bassists, and guest saxophonists on certain cuts, including his late father, Dewey Redman. Thursday night, he brought a trio to Blues Alley for two blistering sets of music that showed why he is one of the most respected jazz musicians of his generation. The evening began with Redman telling an amusing story of his battles with lost luggage and his worrying that he would not have any clothes for his performance. Though we are not fashion experts, it is probably a good thing the luggage arrived as he was looking quite dapper in a tailored, and expensive looking, white shirt with gray slacks and shiny black shoes. His telling the story illustrates one of the factors that set him apart from many of today's jazz performers. While many musicians remain distant, this band had fun playing and recognized that a player can crack a joke or flash a smile without sacrificing musical integrity. This sense of fun translated to the music, as the uptempo numbers were joyful, not aggressive. Even the ballads and more introspective pieces were contemplative and wistful without being mournful and melancholic. It is refreshing to see musicians who remember that music is not worked, it is played. The trio featured Redman with Larry Grenadier on bass and Ali Jackson on drums. Redman's saxophone playing, on both tenor and soprano, has developed over the last few years. While he has always had formidable technical abilities, he is now drawing a wider variety of timbres out of the instrument. At some points, his playing was full bodied and soulful, at others it was light and airy. He is also able to generate some very interesting sounds from his horn, for example making it sound like a slap bass. Larry Grenadier made his name playing with pianist Brad Mehldau but has since recorded and toured with artists as diverse as guitarist John Scofield and pianist Danilo Perez. Grenadier plays with an earthy tone that lays a solid foundation for the rest of the group and is not afraid to let his playing get a little dirty. Drummer Ali Jackson has played with the likes of pianist Cyrus Chestnut and saxophonist Mark Turner. Last night, his musical, interactive, and witty playing explored the full dynamic range of his instrument from the whisper of his brush playing to energetic bombast. This trio has not been playing together very long, as they were reading from sheet music through some of the concert. Though there was the occasional look of discomfort on the faces of the rhythm section, the reading did not noticably interfere with the music. In fact, it is scary to think how good the band will sound once they know every nook and cranny of the tunes. The performance, full of highlights, included a healthy mix of originals and standards. All of the covers received original arrangements, exemplified by the interesting treatment of Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife." "Zarafah," a mellow piece composed for Redman's mother, began with an unaccompanied soprano sax solo wherein Redman examined interesting tonalities that evoked images of the Middle East or North Africa. "Hey Mama," dedicated to "another kind of mama," featured a nasty bass solo that had the crowd cheering. Drummer Jackson got a chance to shine with extended solos on "Oneness of Two." The band's rendition of the ballad, "Angel Eyes," transported us to the smokey jazz clubs of black and white movies. Redman paid homage to sax great Sonny Rollins, a forerunner in the sax/bass/drums format, by playing an original arrangement of Rollins' "Wagon Wheels." Finally, the group brought the funk to close each set and proved that jazzers can, in fact, lay down a sweet groove. Given the calibre of musician that comes through Blues Alley, one rarely sees a poor performance, however this trio definitely stands out. As a reviewer, one tries to avoid excessive gushing but in this case, some gushing might be appropriate because last night's performance absolutely sparkled. There was not a single weak moment in the entire show. Judging by the hoots and hollas that followed each solo, song, and set, the entire audience seemed to feel the same way.

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on May 11, 2007

DCist

The sax/bass/drums trio is an interesting format for a jazz band. Back East, saxophonist Joshua Redman's latest release, marks his first foray into this lineup. The excellent album features Redman along with a variety of drummers, bassists, and guest saxophonists on certain cuts, including his late father, Dewey Redman. Thursday night, he brought a trio to Blues Alley for two blistering sets of music that showed why he is one of the most respected jazz musicians of his generation. The evening began with Redman telling an amusing story of his battles with lost luggage and his worrying that he would not have any clothes for his performance. Though we are not fashion experts, it is probably a good thing the luggage arrived as he was looking quite dapper in a tailored, and expensive looking, white shirt with gray slacks and shiny black shoes. His telling the story illustrates one of the factors that set him apart from many of today's jazz performers. While many musicians remain distant, this band had fun playing and recognized that a player can crack a joke or flash a smile without sacrificing musical integrity. This sense of fun translated to the music, as the uptempo numbers were joyful, not aggressive. Even the ballads and more introspective pieces were contemplative and wistful without being mournful and melancholic. It is refreshing to see musicians who remember that music is not worked, it is played. The trio featured Redman with Larry Grenadier on bass and Ali Jackson on drums. Redman's saxophone playing, on both tenor and soprano, has developed over the last few years. While he has always had formidable technical abilities, he is now drawing a wider variety of timbres out of the instrument. At some points, his playing was full bodied and soulful, at others it was light and airy. He is also able to generate some very interesting sounds from his horn, for example making it sound like a slap bass. Larry Grenadier made his name playing with pianist Brad Mehldau but has since recorded and toured with artists as diverse as guitarist John Scofield and pianist Danilo Perez. Grenadier plays with an earthy tone that lays a solid foundation for the rest of the group and is not afraid to let his playing get a little dirty. Drummer Ali Jackson has played with the likes of pianist Cyrus Chestnut and saxophonist Mark Turner. Last night, his musical, interactive, and witty playing explored the full dynamic range of his instrument from the whisper of his brush playing to energetic bombast. This trio has not been playing together very long, as they were reading from sheet music through some of the concert. Though there was the occasional look of discomfort on the faces of the rhythm section, the reading did not noticably interfere with the music. In fact, it is scary to think how good the band will sound once they know every nook and cranny of the tunes. The performance, full of highlights, included a healthy mix of originals and standards. All of the covers received original arrangements, exemplified by the interesting treatment of Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife." "Zarafah," a mellow piece composed for Redman's mother, began with an unaccompanied soprano sax solo wherein Redman examined interesting tonalities that evoked images of the Middle East or North Africa. "Hey Mama," dedicated to "another kind of mama," featured a nasty bass solo that had the crowd cheering. Drummer Jackson got a chance to shine with extended solos on "Oneness of Two." The band's rendition of the ballad, "Angel Eyes," transported us to the smokey jazz clubs of black and white movies. Redman paid homage to sax great Sonny Rollins, a forerunner in the sax/bass/drums format, by playing an original arrangement of Rollins' "Wagon Wheels." Finally, the group brought the funk to close each set and proved that jazzers can, in fact, lay down a sweet groove. Given the calibre of musician that comes through Blues Alley, one rarely sees a poor performance, however this trio definitely stands out. As a reviewer, one tries to avoid excessive gushing but in this case, some gushing might be appropriate because last night's performance absolutely sparkled. There was not a single weak moment in the entire show. Judging by the hoots and hollas that followed each solo, song, and set, the entire audience seemed to feel the same way.

Music Enitity Reference: 
Back East
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