[JPL] Stop-Time and Symmetry, Punch Lines and Pathos

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 22 12:24:29 EDT 2007

June 22, 2007
Music Review | Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman
Stop-Time and Symmetry, Punch Lines and Pathos 
Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman are in good
places. By the end of their JVC Jazz Festival concert
on Wednesday at Town Hall — Mr. Redman’s trio went
first, Mr. Marsalis’s quartet second — they had put
the crowd into happy exhaustion. It had been pummeled
with hard stuff, engaged by delicate stuff, and there
had been remarkably little glibness going around. 

Mr. Redman is thorough as a presenter of his own work,
and his music, either by instrumentation or by
composition, can be overdetermined. There’s often a
dutiful concept in the way, whether it’s suite form or
stretchy funk or pop repertory. Right now he’s doing
either the simplest or the hardest option, which is a
saxophone-bass-drums trio, his song choices scaled
back to standards and a few of his own sketches. He’s
also coming to terms with a fairly serious and
longstanding Sonny Rollins obsession, yet it doesn’t
limit him; it frees him, somehow. With Reuben Rogers
on bass and Eric Harland on drums — as they are on
some of his new trio-based record, “Back East”
(Nonesuch) — we were hearing him do what he does best,
without the shiny distractions. 

Mr. Redman is a supremely affable and flowing
improviser, at times a borderline brilliant one,
working in a glow of clarity. As he obeys the
authority of his tempos and his phrase patterns — and
sometimes those are advanced ones, constantly altering
groups of 16th notes through moving harmony — there’s
a balanced, Bach-like, symmetrical feeling to it all. 

This trio supports his obvious interest in tight
structure; Mr. Harland fit compressed little essays on
rhythm into the stop-time breaks of “Surrey With the
Fringe on Top.” And the members of the group also got
their hands dirty, accessing the language of free jazz
in Mr. Redman’s “Back East” and “Zarafah.” Yet without
a piano, and with Mr. Redman’s ability to shut down
any piece of music before grandiosity set in, the
music had a clear, diaphanous feeling.

If Mr. Redman’s set was a drawing made of light, Mr.
Marsalis’s was a heavy oak bookshelf. Seven years now
with the same lineup this is a band feeling its
permanence. There was the loud, odd-meter drumming of
Jeff (Tain) Watts; Eric Revis’s rigorous bass playing
(like William Parker or Charles Mingus, he went at it
percussively, scrabbling the strings, whumping out
chords); Joey Calderazzo’s obsessively tunneling
improvised piano lines, sometimes restricted to the
bass clef; and Mr. Marsalis’s flexibility, concision
and abruptness on tenor and soprano saxophones. 

The subtleties of group interaction — for instance,
Mr. Calderazzo’s intuitive ability to flood the spaces
left open by Mr. Marsalis — came hidden in inherently
dramatic music. There was heavy gestural humor in Mr.
Watts’s “Vodville” and the band’s japing
reorganization of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning”;
and heavy pathos in the ballads “Hope” and “Fate,” as
well as the cathartic bass solo “And Then He Was

The set was at times hyperaggressive, hyperassertive;
here and there you wanted to tell it to back off. But
this music’s iron sense of purpose, and its ability to
exercise a crowd, made it imposing and instantly

The JVC New York Jazz Festival continues through June
30 at various locations. Full schedule and other
information: festivalproductions.net.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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