Joshua Redman

Joshua Redman (House of Blues; 500 seats; $ 20) Presented inhouse. Band: Redman, Peter Bernstein, Peter Martin, Christopher Thomas, Brian Blade. Reviewed Sept. 25, 1996. The emperor anointed to usher in jazz's post-Marsalis era looks good in his first foray outside the parameters of straight-ahead, small combo jazz. This is not, however, a case of the emperor's new clothes. Dressed in tight black T-shirt, black jeans, black Dr. Martens and sporting a shaved head, Joshua Redman has all the accouterments of a militant; in reality, he's a smoothie able to create modern jazz with equal debts to classic Impulse! recordings and Detroit soul. Redman emphasized music from his new Warners disc, "Freedom in the Groove," bouncing between tenor and alto saxophones to caress one soothing melody after another. In every song and this carries over to the rest of the band it is apparent where each solo is going and there are too few tricks up anyone's sleeve to suggest the band's development is anywhere near a cutting edge. Even when the group steps into free improv territory, they generate a captivating swirl that, rather than fading into anarchy, obeys the rules of gravity and lands back at the song's inception. The beauty here is in perfection of execution with the emotion intact. As an altoist, Redman leans heavily on works structured more like medium-tempo R&B numbers than bebop themes his playing awash in lyricism that's as much a balm as the voice of Smokey Robinson or Aretha Franklin. He leaves the risks to the tenor, the instrument he arrived on five years ago as the hottest of the new breed, and his maturity is omnipresent as a bandleader and an instrumentalist. Redman has developed an animated performing style that makes him fun to watch. What holds him back is a continued allegiance to Sonny Rollins of the early '60s from the use of guitaras the second lead instrument and the order of squawks and squeaks in a solo down even to the way he structures a set. What continues to push Redman onto that top rung is the presence of an expertly rehearsed band. Pianist Peter Martin lends lovely support and solos with a superb sense of elegance and splendor; Peter Bernstein is as melodious a guitarist as Redman is a sax player they complement each other with aplomb. Most important is longtime drummer Brian Blade, whose solo on the 90-minute show's opener set the mood for precisely how many hills and valleys would be traveled and how pleasant the trip would be. Blade is constantly inventive and, as is apparent with so many quality jazz bands, the drummer provides the key to the music's ability to connect with the audience. It points out, too, how a major label's participation in a jazz act can mean the difference between the appearance of a soloist and the performance of a group. In the pop world, we've already witnessed Bruce Springsteen without the E Street Band. Now imagine Sting without a collection of jazz musicians or John Mellencamp without Kenny Aronoff; Redman's band is the prototype of what jazz labels have to do to move the music further: within its own predictability, it will attract larger audiences and open those doors to invention again.

Joshua Redman (House of Blues; 500 seats; $ 20) Presented inhouse. Band: Redman, Peter Bernstein, Peter Martin, Christopher Thomas, Brian Blade. Reviewed Sept. 25, 1996. The emperor anointed to usher in jazz’s post-Marsalis era looks good in his first foray outside the parameters of straight-ahead, small combo jazz. This is not, however, a case of the emperor’s new clothes. Dressed in tight black T-shirt, black jeans, black Dr. Martens and sporting a shaved head, Joshua Redman has all the accouterments of a militant; in reality, he’s a smoothie able to create modern jazz with equal debts to classic Impulse! recordings and Detroit soul. Redman emphasized music from his new Warners disc, “Freedom in the Groove,” bouncing between tenor and alto saxophones to caress one soothing melody after another. In every song and this carries over to the rest of the band it is apparent where each solo is going and there are too few tricks up anyone’s sleeve to suggest the band’s development is anywhere near a cutting edge. Even when the group steps into free improv territory, they generate a captivating swirl that, rather than fading into anarchy, obeys the rules of gravity and lands back at the song’s inception. The beauty here is in perfection of execution with the emotion intact. As an altoist, Redman leans heavily on works structured more like medium-tempo R&B numbers than bebop themes his playing awash in lyricism that’s as much a balm as the voice of Smokey Robinson or Aretha Franklin. He leaves the risks to the tenor, the instrument he arrived on five years ago as the hottest of the new breed, and his maturity is omnipresent as a bandleader and an instrumentalist. Redman has developed an animated performing style that makes him fun to watch. What holds him back is a continued allegiance to Sonny Rollins of the early ’60s from the use of guitaras the second lead instrument and the order of squawks and squeaks in a solo down even to the way he structures a set. What continues to push Redman onto that top rung is the presence of an expertly rehearsed band. Pianist Peter Martin lends lovely support and solos with a superb sense of elegance and splendor; Peter Bernstein is as melodious a guitarist as Redman is a sax player they complement each other with aplomb. Most important is longtime drummer Brian Blade, whose solo on the 90-minute show’s opener set the mood for precisely how many hills and valleys would be traveled and how pleasant the trip would be. Blade is constantly inventive and, as is apparent with so many quality jazz bands, the drummer provides the key to the music’s ability to connect with the audience. It points out, too, how a major label’s participation in a jazz act can mean the difference between the appearance of a soloist and the performance of a group. In the pop world, we’ve already witnessed Bruce Springsteen without the E Street Band. Now imagine Sting without a collection of jazz musicians or John Mellencamp without Kenny Aronoff; Redman’s band is the prototype of what jazz labels have to do to move the music further: within its own predictability, it will attract larger audiences and open those doors to invention again.

Joshua Redman

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