Concert Review: Joshua Redman at Jazz Alley 4/9/09

redmanI often make mention that I find tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman the coolest man holding a saxophone these days. Each time our paths cross, I am not only reminded why, but his “coolness” factor only seems to grow exponentially.

Redman was in the same setting as the last time I saw him…just him, bass, and drums. Gregory Hutchinson joined him this time on drums, while Matt Penman played bass.

The band crept on stage behind me while I introduced them, and then Joshua Redman pretended to count off the first tune while I was still talking. I looked over at him, as he smiled wryly as if to suggest humor, but also  quite possibly a reminder that perhaps the audience was there to listen to him play, not to hear me talk. Mixing that thought with my my lack of comfort with standing in front of large crowds, I shortened my introduction and let the audience hear what they payed for.

There is not much debate going into a Joshua Redman concert that it is going to be good. But what surprised me, to a degree, was how artistic not only his playing was, but his new compositions as well.

Redman’s new album is titled Compass, which is worthy of a wonderful review on its own, and many of the songs performed that night were off the new release.

This is not to say that Joshua was not previously artistic, because he was, both live and on recordings. However his performance this time around just seemed to have an additional level of artistry and emotion that I had not previously heard from Redman. Three tunes in particular (Identity Thief, Ghost, and Insomnomaniac) were highlights of this artistry. The trio was in perfect sync, and drummer Hutchinson put it best as he addressed the crowd at the end of a drum solo by saying: “This isn’t exactly what you thought you would hear when you showed up tonight, is it?”

It was, and it wasn’t, but it was all good. It is always wonderful to see one of your favorite artists playing well, but even more exciting to see that they haven’t come close to hitting their ceiling.

Between shows I stuck my head in the dressing room, unsure if I would be bothering the Harvard graduate by saying hello, or if he would even remember me from the other times we had met outside of tonight. He did, asked how I was doing, what I was up to these days, and told me to say hello to my Program Director, who he mentioned by name. That, combined with his performance, completely added to his cool factor. Frankly I hate the word “cool”, but it most certainly should be used to describe someone who defines it.

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