Tag Archives: Joshua Redman

Newport Jazz Festival 2011


FORT JAZZ – Saturday

Went to see Steve Coleman & the Five Elements a couple weeks ago, and as usual the revered alto saxophonist demonstrated just how far precision can take a jazz band, which is pretty damn far. There’s math in Coleman’s ever-evolving music; several tunes on the new The Mancy of Sound (Pi) have the kind of counterpoint action that makes you think a slide rule was involved in the composing process. But because the leader views most everything through a rhythmic lens, the action of the bass, drums, piano, guitar and vocals takes on a hyper percolation. Drummer Marcus Gilmore, a one of the most fascinating percussionists at work these days, has a deep connection with Coleman’s jagged riffs. The sparks are definitely going to fly when they hit the Harbor Stage at the first full day of the Newport Jazz Festival. Five Elements are one of several impressive ensembles to take over Fort Adams this weekend. It’s another well-curated program for the Fest this year, with an array of perspectives being offered. The first band you need to put on today’s must-see list Mostly Other People Do the Killing. The New York quartet is a wiseacre outfit with a deep blend of concept and chops. Their rambunctious freebop is built on a manic esprit that’s proud of its entertainment skills. The Coimbra Concert (Clean Feed) which captures them at their high-flying best, conjures the eruptions of Mingus, humor of Raymond Scott, and of the boisterous beauty of the Art Ensemble, ably placing them in a deeply creative continuum. Ambrose Akinmusire is another young phenom to catch. When The Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note) is a serious date that stresses interplay over all else. The trumpet newcomer has a wide angle world view, with influences stretching from Chopin to Flying Lotus, and his ballads implode with poignancy while his rave-ups put passion in the center of their squall. No wonder Wynton Marsalis was part of the applauding audience when Akinmusire premiered his disc in New York this spring. Speaking of the trumpet titan, he too, will bring his terrific quintet to the Fort’s stage. They are, in a word, killing – agile, inspired, refined and rambunctious. Speaking of kicking up some dust, Randy Weston’s piano can also be placed in that category. The lanky pianist makes judiciousness seem like the most valuable element of performance, which gives his shows a deep focus, but doesn’t mean everything’s measured. When Weston strikes that keyboard, he means it – trills turn as many heads as rumbles. His African Rhythms Trio has a regal air, generating trance qualities that boast a bit of majesty. Regina Carter’s Reverse Thread ensemble also harks to African sources, using folk music pulses in an enticing way, with the mesh of accordion, bass, guitar and the leader’s virtuosic violin uniting in a swirl. Lots of other enticing shows await as well, like Esperanza Spalding’s duet gig with various artists. Be prepared to roam the grounds; there are lots of great options.


Prepare thyself to deal with the beauty of the saxophone at today’s Newport Jazz Festival: It’s a day of resounding horn players. The seductive murmur of Charles Lloyd’s tenor has never sounded better than it has in the last several years. His ECM work has trumped his Atlantic sides in terms of eloquence and legacy. His Sangam trio with trap drummer Eric Harland and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain puts his sax lines in a revealing setting. Their luminous arcs usually ride a groove that becomes quite enchanting as the momentum builds. Joshua Redman also has a glow to his solos, too. Earlier this summer I watched his current band James Farm turn the tunes from their impressive Nonesuch debut into vehicles for deep interplay. Along with bassist Matt Penman and pianist Aaron Parks, percussionist Harland is part of the collective outfit, and his incessant drive helped Redman achieve liftoff time after time. There’s also plenty of thrust behind alto master Miguel Zenon, who brings the music from his new Alma Adentro (Marsalis Music) to the stage. The program contains updates of classic pieces from the Puerto Rican songbook arranged for jazz quartet and a woodwind tentet led by the celebrated bandleader Guillermo Klein. Zenon is one of those guys who makes your jaw drop, and his foursome can be unusually telepathic when it comes to rounding corners and negotiating intersections. Rudresh Mahanthappa was recently named “Alto Saxophonist of the Year” by DownBeat magazine, and deservedly so. The fire and focus that comes from the bandleader’s ax is daunting. His collaboration with alto elder Bunky Green had more than a little to do with the victory, of course. The critically championed Apex (Pi) finds the pair exchanging volley after volley, as they will on the Newport stage. Green, a patriarch of the Chicago scene, has inspired Mahanthappa for ages. Their collaboration is an insightful intergenerational exchange. Steve Coleman is another Bunky acolyte. Intriguingly, he’s also a mentor to Zenon; methinks there will be lots of high-flying spirits when Coleman, Miguel, and Ravi Coltrane set up shop in front of a mic in a sax summit situation. Coltrane is a resourceful soprano and tenor player who has been forging an engaging persona during the last few years. I particularly like the way he treats Monk, with a bit of roughness, the kind of push and shove that the master’s tunes can stand up to. Last time I caught his working band, they sliced and diced “Epistrophy” like zen swordsmen. One final sax hero? Tony Malaby. He’ll be part of John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, and when he gets the green light to take one of the percussionist/bandleader’s charts to the next level, watch out: the honking and wailing become one, and the poetic expressionism of his lines moves right to the forefront. Hollenbeck’s crew is remarkable in general. They just won DownBeat’s best big band designation thanks to the clever designs found on Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside), a record that defines what ensemble work can be in the modern era. Make sure to arrive on time to absorb their wallop. It could be tough choice for large ensemble lovers, actually . The Mingus Big Band, a group that has been delivering the raucous beauty of the maestro’s book for decades now, has plenty of whomp as well. Otherwise, trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s outfit, bassist Esperanza Spalding’s ensemble, and a pianist by the name of Dave Brubeck should all tickle you plenty.





Fathers Day in Jazzville

Must be a treat to play music with a parent. In this case, a dad. A recent Facebook chat with a pal reminded me of seeing Dewey and Joshua Redman share a stage at a jazz fest outside Boston back in the late ’80s. I believe it was the first time I’d ever heard Josh play live (also heard him play last night, as fate would have it). There are several sons who have chosen to follow in their fathers’ footsteps, and several of them have had the opportunity to work together with their dads. Here are 10 of ’em. Hats off to those who are furthering the family tradition. 

1. Ornette and Denardo Coleman,  The Empty Foxhole  

2. Joe and Mat ManeriThree Men Walking 

3. Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and and Ellis Marsalis 

4. Dewey and Joshua Redman

5. Jackie and Rene MacLean 

6. Bucky & John Pizzarelli

7. Von & Chico Freeman

8. Dave & Darius and Chris Brubeck

9. John & Ravi Coltrane

10. Thelonious Monk & Thelonious Monk Jr.

10 Great Jazz Spins On Bob Dylan Songs

Since the main thrust of Dylan’s canon has been the way he’s wielded words, it’s a bit odd that instrumentalists would be jumping into his songbook. But those Zimmy melodies are rather remarkable as well, and from Bill Frisell’s “Just Like a Woman” to Marty Ehrlich’s “I Pity The Poor Immigrant,” they offer improvisers some sweet turf to plow. Everyone’s celebrating the man’s 70th birthday, which takes place on Tuesday. Here are 10 jazz pieces to plop on your playlist.

1 “Blind Willie McTell,” Marty Ehrlich’s Dark Woods Ensemble, Sojourn (Tzadik)

Slave ships, chain gangs, bootleg whiskey – Dylan drums up a portrait of psychological decimation citing spots “where many martyrs fell” while burglarizing the melody of “St. James Infirmary.” Ehrlich salutes such incisiveness with one of his most passionate soprano outings ever. With guitarist Marc Ribot plucking along, the saxophonist goes for several deep moans, sustaining the melancholy and milking the sorrow.

2 “Dark Eyes,” Jewels & Binoculars, Jewels and Binoculars (Ramboy)

Michael Moore, Lindsay Horner, and Michael Vatcher get the prize for the deepest dedication to the Dylan songbook. From “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” to “One More Cup of Coffee” to “Sign On the Window,” they have turned overlooked nuggets into unexpected beacons on three distinct albums. “Dark Eyes” is a perfect example. Eloquence is everywhere on this genteel stroll through the sullen ballad. Somehow it finds beauty at each turn.

3 “Blowing In the Wind” Stan Getz, Reflections (Verve)

Every time it seems as if there’s nothing left to do but rubber stamp this ‘60s track as misguided hokiness, something about said hokiness becomes a bit more attractive. The soft glow of the tenor giant’s tone – full of air yet full of heart – balances the icky formula moves of the strings and the rhythm section. Commercial silliness with a heart of gold.

4 “Dirge,” Jamie Saft, Trouble (Tzadik)

There’s a chill in the air when Zimmy wanders lower Broadway mumbling “I hate myself for loving you.” Breaking up is hard to do, no doubt. Pianist Saft, in a full Dylan program, lets bassist Greg Cohen do all the emoting on this Planet Waves plaint. And tempo-wise they take the title as an instruction.

5 “I Shall Be Released,” Nina Simone, Just Like a Woman (Sony)

Odd that she would use a slow grind groove to wax plaintive about being hemmed in, but then again idiosyncrasy is her stock in trade. It’s got the church, it’s got the barroom, and the depth of its blues reverberates in several key phrases (“every man must fall”). This album also features a capable take on “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”

6 “The Times They Are A-Changing,” Joshua Redman, Timeless Tales (For Changing  Times) (Warner Bros)

He attacks it from the downbeat, like he can’t wait for everyone within earshot to heed the call. When I first heard it I thought it was a tad fussy – over-arranged. But Josh has a way of making intricacy sound natural, and as the blues creep from the piano and the tempos aggressively shift (“the wheel’s still in spin,” indeed) the message hits home.

7 “Mr Tambourine Man,” Abbey Lincoln, Who Used To Dance (Verve)

She once told me that she’d never heard the iconic fantasia before she recorded it in 1996. Seems impossible, right? But the ardent way Abbey dances below that diamond sky glows is full of a newcomer’s joy. Happily, the performance also resounds with a veteran’s perspective for narrative. Gotta think she was reading the lyrics from a page in front of that mic, but between the drummer crashing and the bassist twirling, she sounds like she’s singing a story she’s been waiting forever to tell.

8 “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Bill Frisell, East-West (Nonesuch)

In the intro, he searches for answers as he twists the melody: “Where did you go/what did you see?.” I didn’t know it was possible for desolation to be dreamy, but acting alone, Frisell comes up with a stretch of sound that could drive a few chapters of McCarthy’s The Road. Later, when Viktor Krauss and Kenny Wollesen kick in, the sweep makes everyone waltz the plank.

9 Masters Of War, Scott Amendola, Cry (Cryptogramophone)

This one takes the protest to the explosive level. You can almost see the drummer and his crew (Cline, Sheinman, Sickafoose, Crystal) landing a punch on the chin of the Bush/Cheney machine (the disc was released in 2003, during the Iraq invasion). Carla Bozulich’s wailing anguish is a blend of Yoko and Diamanda, perfectly integrating with the instrumental onslaught, especially that martial undertow.

10 “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Jewels & Binoculars, Ships With Tattooed Sails (Upshot)

The buzzing alto, the pulsing rhythm section – both ignite to parallel the original’s ornery mania. Some “rules of the road have been dodged,” no question. But the trio makes sure its frenzy is lined with grace. The whole thing is utterly buoyant; even special guest Bill Frisell’s fractious solo errs on the side of shimmer. The galloping tempo is still palpable long after the music fades away.

Jazz Times’ Lee Mergner speaks with Ben Sidran on his Dylan spins.

Jazz  Times’ Tom Wilmeth mulls over Bob’s connection to the music. 

Top Five Ideas Gleaned From Last Night’s Bad Plus Gig

Went to see the Bad Plus at the Blue Note last night. The trio has been together for a decade now, and their intra-group interplay is one of modern jazz’s most rewarding wonders. Last year’s Never Stop (Do The Math) was their first disc to eschew their much vaunted pop covers, and it made a great point. Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and Dave King don’t need “Heart of Glass,” the Chariots of Fire theme, or that Black Sabbath anthem to turn heads. Their own, rather spectacular, material is captivating on its own. They stuck to self-penned pieces last night, and from “Big Eater” to “You Are,” they glistened with the kind of sincerity skeptics occasionally say the band lacks.

Their special guest for this week’s run is Joshua Redman. The group hasn’t had outsiders enter their rather hermetic world (though singer Wendy Lewis joined them for 2008’s For All I Care), and though he was still finding his way through their rigorous tunes, the famed saxophonist did a nice job of bringing some extra oomph to the table.  I made a few mental notes.

1. Interlopers Are Interesting

The MJQ invited Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins to join them. The Art Ensemble had Cecil Taylor take the stage. And don’t forget that recent Kneebody/Busdriver collabo.  Adding a new character to an old story is helpful. Josh was reading a bit at Wednesday night’s show, but when it came time to head for the wild blue yonder, he brought plenty of individualism to the table. Like his associates, he enjoys a strong narrative and an impactful denouement; long story short, he is expert at the process of editing. One of his solos was the essence of a slowly-built fanfare, something essential to the trio’s architectural esthetic.

2. The Plus Have As Much Power Soft As They Do Loud

The PA was on, but the band was barely coming through it. The aggression that has become one of their signatures has always been a bit exaggerated – they’ve long understood the power of dynamics. But here the bluster was on the backburner, and everything had a more measured approach. Maybe it was because Josh was still absorbing the tunes, maybe it was because the room can’t abide a saturated pallet. Whichever, it was revealing. As King got his Connie Kay on at various junctures, it became obvious that the trio’s intensity has little to do with their amplification.

3. The Blues Can Support An Opus Or Two

Nope, it ain’t exactly I-IV-V, but it is somewhat close. Iverson’s “Guilty” is built on a stark melodic motif that continually opens itself to bent blues connotations – one of the group’s more pliable nuggets.  And they bent it big time on Wednesday, with everyone getting to solo. The composer made the most dramatic statement. He’s refined the way he uses silence, and especially in a blues, he fully understands the impact of negative space.  His silences left a few listeners hanging, and for an instant  I thought I heard some Memphis Slim (or was it Basie?) float by. Always good to pull the rug out from an audience, especially while reworking a style that’s so ostensibly familiar.

4. Dave King Smiles Just As Much As Billy Higgins

They were there with the first sound of the set – a quick thud. They were there with the evening’s final gesture – a hand-slapped cymbal left to softly dissolve. The grins and chuckles didn’t leave the drummer’s face the entire night. The process of creation agrees with him, and King – especially during one high-flying Redman excursion – never stopped beaming at the Blue Note. Better get a drum duet going with that other happy boy of percussion, Matt Wilson. (King duets with guitarist David Torn at the club at a midnight show on Friday).

5. Flourishes Are Forever

The intro to Anderson’s “Silence Is The Question” gave the bassist plenty of elbow room for a Haden-esque rumination. Great to hear his plump plunks fill the room. But as the others fluttered in around him, the designs became more and more elaborate. Lines were multiplied, rhythms were stacked, ardor was nudged to the foreground. Yep, protracted crescendos are cliches, but after a decade of anthemic action, they remain one of the trio’s fortes.

Hank Shteamer saw something similar on Thursday night. 

Josh Redman Pares It Down

For a big chunk of 2009 he helmed a double rhythm section (see above). The book paralled the tunes on the impressive (is it one of the year’s best?) Compass. Now Josh Redman has sliced his team in half. He leads a trio at the Jazz Standard this week, and you know he’s pretty damn impressive in that realm. Make a reservation, y’all.