Joshua Redman Trio
Berklee Performance Center
January 22, 2009
Joshua Redman has high notes. He has low notes. He has trills. I could go further, and talk about brilliant expressionism, the emotive quality of his playing and that of his ensemble. It’s easy to hear that he knows how to make “jazz.”
What, then, makes him original?
There aren’t any high notes that haven’t been hit yet. Every scale has been used, every style been tweaked. Joshua Redman has all that and they’re all reasons to listen. But I don’t think that’s what makes Redman special.
What Redman has is an ensemble.
Double trios have been used before in jazz, perhaps even with the setup Redman uses (saxophone, two drummers, two bassists). I’d contend that none of them capture the cohesion, beauty and intercommunication of Redman’s. Generally, that much overlap in the rhythm lends itself to clumsiness, excess.
However, Redman doesn’t try to repeat Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz (Coleman used a double quartet) which, while remarkable in its vision, is frequently aimless, unconstrained, immoderate. Instead, with the help of the other band members, Redman fosters an intense synchronicity within the group, as palpable by sight as by sound (in last Thursday’s performance, drummer Gregory Hutchinson was so taken by the interplay between bassists Larry Grenadie rand Reuben Rogers that he was compelled, mid-show, to take a picture of the two on stage).
Redman’s music doesn’t try to be a manifesto. It’s a conversation, and one of the more coherent (and still exciting) ones I’ve heard live. And that’s the way that they are meant to be seen. I listened to the group’s recent album Compass — as flawless as their on-stage performance — but it didn’t have half the power over me that the group had when I could see their faces. It’s not their fault. It’s just that the group is one, perhaps more than any other I’ve seen, whose music cannot simply translate itself to digital.
There’s so much other communication — a wince from Brian Blade, a smirk from Redman, a guffaw from Gregory Hutchinson — that goes on and colors the music profoundly. These guys are human. They’re telling their story and it’s eloquent enough that it needs no adornment, no additions, no more high notes, no more trills than what’s already there.