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Joshua Redman

I was so busy last month I didn't get around to writing about Joshua Redman's Still Dreaming at SF Jazz. With Ron Miles on trumpet, Brian Blade on drums, and Scott Colley on bass, the band's name is a tribute to Old and New Dreams, the 70's group with Joshua's dad Dewey Redman, Charlie Hayden, Ed Blackwell, and Don Cherry. Still Dreaming played selections from the older group, and also new, and very challenging originals. "Believe it or not, that was a blues" Joshua said after one tune, and indeed even I wouldn't have known. I was about to proclaim Still Dreaming as the most important band in jazz (supplanting Wayne Shorter) until I heard the Wayne Shorter Quartet at SF Jazz Thursday night. They are still number one. With Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and Terri Lyne Carrington sitting in for Brian Blade on drums, the 83 year old Shorter seemed even more energetic than last year. And more forward. It is a very rare artist, in any discipline, that continues to constantly move forward. Even Miles got talked into revisiting the Gil Evans arrangements the month before he died by Quincy. (And it was a lovely performance. As much as I love late Miles, there wasn't a lot of innovation the last couple of years.) But Wayne not only has the best and most important group in jazz, it's also the most forward. Joshua will take over the mantle, but we are so lucky to have Wayne.
Last week the Brian Blade Fellowship Band played SF Jazz. Brian first formed the Fellowship with Loyola classmate John Cowherd in 1997, and between stints with Joshua Redman, Joni Mitchell, Kenny Garrett, Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan, and Wayne Shorter, he has managed to keep the group together and have four Blue Note recordings to date. With Melvin Butler on soprano and tenor, Myron Walden on alto and bass clarinet (one of my favorite instruments!) and Chris Thomas on bass, the group is one of the most soulful, and creative, in jazz. Many of the tunes are written by Cowherd, whose style is an evocative blend of Evans, Corea, and Hancock. They horns often play in fourths and fifths, which give ambiguous major/minor possibilities for soloing (which I also love). They also have a very Celtic character (Coltrane reportedly practiced through Irish harp books). One is reminded that our Great American Music is a blend of African, Celtic, and European musics and folk tunes. Blade, as always, is explosive, exciting, abstract, but always groovy. Bravo!
I've been hearing so much fabulous music this last week that I haven't had time to write about it. Last week the Joshua Redman Trio played SF Jazz. Over the last few years Joshua has grown into the leading tenor of his generation. The son of the late great Dewey Redman, Joshua was originally ambivalent (as was understandably Ravi Coltrane) about pursuing a career in music. A late bloomer, he has more than made up for lost time. Now that I think about it, he made a great leap forward when his first child was born. With Reuben Rogers on bass, and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, the trio format allows for maximum freedom, but also perhaps maximum challenges. Opening with Surrey With The Fringe On Top, from Oklahoma! a tune first covered in the jazz world by Miles Davis, and later Sonny Rollins, they made the old and familiar new. Ending the tune with a long funk vamp that only someone of his generation or younger would think of, Joshua succeeds in being both accessible, and modern. Alternating between angular originals, and standards like Never Let Me Go, and Mack the Knife, the Trio explores all ranges and dynamics of the music. Check out their new live recording - they are riveting. A lover of all kinds of music, he was sitting next to me last year at a Takacs Quartet recital of Bartok. More on Takacs later!

Berkeley welcomed her native son Joshua Redman home to Zellerbach Auditorium Saturday night.  Joshua has become the preeminent tenor saxophonist of his generation, and the sold out crowd was wildly enthusiastic.  The son of the legendary saxman Dewey Redman and the dancer Renee Shedroff, he grew up listening to the music of his father, and also to John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley, as well as The Beatles, Motown, Led Zep, and The Police.  While he played in the Berkley High School Jazz Ensemble until his graduation in 1986, he never intended to be a professional musician, and graduated from Harvard summa cum laude with a degree in social studies.  Taking a year off before law school, he fell into the New York jazz scene, and won the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition.  Voila, a career was born.  He began to tour and record with his father, and Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Elvin Jones, Pat Metheny, and Paul Motian, among many others.  This quartet has performed together off and on since 1998, and is beautifully locked in and intuitive. Pianist Aaron Golberg also graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with degrees in science and history.  As with Joshua, music won out, and he began touring with Tom Harrell and Freddie Hubbard.  Reuben Rogers is a marvelous electric and acoustic bassist, with influences from jazz to calypso from his native Virgin Islands, to reggae and gospel.  Like all great bass players he both propels the group rhythmically, while tying the soloists melodic flights harmonically, and making sure everything makes sense.  Drummer Gregory Hutchinson (along with my own dear Deszon Claiborne) is one of the finest straight ahead drummers of his generation, and can swing from post bop to funk and back in a few bars while maintaining monster grooves.  A supposed music business heavy assured me years ago that improvisation was dead, and that young people were not going to be interested in listening to musicians "winging it".  I knew he was wrong, and that that there will ALWAYS be an audience for the excitement and mystery of spontaneous creation.  A modern quartet that also channels the tradition, the encore was Star Dust.    



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