June-20th-2012, 02:24 AM
Joshua Redman did a concert series in Paris over the last few days:
- a new group, the Axis Saxophone Quartet, with Redman, Mark Turner, Chris Cheek and Chris Potter
- a duo with Mehldau
- Redman's Double Trio with Matt Penman, Reuben Rogers, Brian Blade and Greg Hutchinson
- the Elastic trio with Redman, Sam Yahel on organ, and Brian Blade
I saw the saxophone quartet and the Double Trio.
The saxophone quartet was performing its second-ever gig, after a previous concert that Redman described as "in an enormous park in a thunderstorm." They were a little tentative in the arrangements, and you could tell they were still working out their dynamic. They had an interesting bunch of material, with pieces by all of them plus commissions from Guillermo Klein and Patrick Zimmerli, and a bebop blues to close with. Their chops were evident but not overbearingly so, with Chris Potter more than once emerging as a kind of leader in collectively improvised moments. If it lasts, this will be an interesting addition to the small world of jazz saxophone quartets. With four such different musical personalities, there's a lot of potential.
The Double Trio's performance was spirited and athletic. Where the saxophone quartet seemed at times a bit academic, the Double Trio has more experience playing together and was above all having fun. It's hard to single out any single musician, since they were all performing in a real collective spirit. My only quibble is that the music sometimes gave me a curious impression of a lack of expressive depth. I wouldn't say it was shallow or superficial, because it was certainly not simple or uncommitted. It's very dashing and impressive, thrilling at times, and that in itself seems to be what they're expressing: the focused energy of spontaneous and expert interplay within sophisticated structures. At times it felt like what Wayne Shorter's quartet might sound like if they had detailed arrangements. So, excellent music, well worth hearing, but maybe too cheerfully complacent about its own technical exploits. They were very impressive but almost predictably so: young, strong, ridiculously skilled and talented, challenging themselves technically but bang smack in the middle of their esthetic comfort zone.
P.S.: It's been a long time since I've seen Redman live, and I have to say I found his physical persona a little tiresome: jerking about, raising his knee up or going from a crouch to tip-toes to emphasize blasts or high notes, it all seemed forced. If he were a pianist he'd be giving Jarrettian moans.