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Reuben Rogers

Saturday night the Charles Lloyd New Quartet played SF Jazz as part of his residency. Charles has been one of my most profound influences, since I saw his first great quartet, with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee, and Jack DeJohnette in the 60's at the Fillmore. (Opening for Albert King, headliner B.B. King, no less. Thank you Bill Graham). The New Quartet, with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums, has been his primary vehicle since 2007. It is ironic, but probably not an accident, that the two most forward and contemporary bands in the world are led by elders: Charles Lloyd and Wayne Shorter. They have always pushed the boundaries, with exquisite taste. Charles was in brilliant form Saturday, it was perhaps the finest performance of his I've ever seen, and one of the very best performances I've seen from anyone. (Miles and Ravi Shanker clocked in a few). Many of the pieces started out as whisper soft ballads and then built to rock and roll intensity. (After the concert, Charles addressed the audience and reminded us that as a youth in Memphis, he played with many blues masters, including Johnny Ace, Bobby Blue Bland, Howling' Wolf, and B.B. King). They played through the changes of Autumn Leaves, without the melody, it became completely new. The final encore, requested by many in the audience, was Forest Flower. Like all forward explorers, I don't think he has played the song that made him famous for many years - like every note he plays, it was completely fresh and new. In the words of The New York Times’ Ben Ratliff: “Follow the career of Charles Lloyd, and you see a map of great jazz across half a century. His shows, full of momentum and intuition, perfectly represent the idea that the best jazz needs to be experienced live.” Charles's start in the big time was musical director for Chico Hamilton, with whom I had the privilege of playing in 1979-1980.
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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