Joshua Redman, Trios Live (Nonesuch)
Redman opens with an unaccompanied tenor saxophone introduction to “Mack the Knife.” The fluidity, power and quixotic imagination of his playing prepare his listeners for the album’s hour of adventure. At New York’s Jazz Standard and Washington DC’s Blues Alley, he is in the intimate company of just bass and drumsand of audiences who listen closely and respond with enthusiasm. When Redman is in the midst of rhythmic displacements and chord substitutions on the Kurt Weill piece, the zest and daring of the young Sonny Rollins come to mind. Rollins’ spiritual presence is evident here and there throughout, but Redman’s individuality is striking. He packs his extended coda to “Never Let Me Go,” with melodic inventions like no one else’s.
Gregory Hutchinson’s drumming on both club dates inspires, nudges and occasionally goads the saxophonist. High in the audio mix, in several instances Hutchinson is an equal partner in inventiveness as he and Redman reflect and reinforce one another’s ideas. Matt Penman is the bassist on the four tracks from the Jazz Standard. Reuben Rogers is on the three from Blues Alley. They are equal partners with Redman and Hutchinson in the generation and exchange of energy that permeates these performances. In two tracks on soprano sax, Redman creates excitement, but his originality on soprano doesn’t quite equal that of his tenor work. He is tenor sax machismo personified in Thelonious Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle” and in the album’s most unlikely entry, Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.”
For a Rifftides review of Redman, Rogers, Hutchinson and pianist Aaron Goldberg at the 2014 Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, go here.