Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saxman Redman Again Proves to be Quite Good, Man -- Chicago Jazz Review

Jazz Review

Joshua Redman Quartet
Symphony Center, Chicago
November 22, Chicago

Vacant of much astute analysis, the extent of this review essentially consists of me saying: I liked what I heard.

I can't tell you in any knowledgeable way what makes Joshua Redman such a fine saxophone player. He just sounds fluid in everything he plays, with impressive power and speed when applicable. (I should note that a well-played sax is one of my favorite sounds in the world.)

I can't tell you in technical terms any of the skills his quartet--rounded out by Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums--showcased Friday night at Symphony Center. (I appreciated how Redman, in his stage remarks at a venue he's now played 9 times, expressed confusion over whether the name is Orchestra Hall, Symphony Hall or Symphony Center; I likewise never am sure.)

I know several of the songs played were Redman compositions from his latest album, Walking Shadows--because he announced them as such--but I really couldn't tell you their names.

I can't even remember when, where and how I came to know Redman, the son of a sax great named Dewey Redman, with whom I wasn't familiar. The first time I saw him, at the same classic venue, was in 2008, when he was accompanied by Branford Marsalis.

Photo credit: Arne Reimer
I've also seen him at the Old Town School of Folk Music and again at Symphony Center with a quartet called James Farm.

This time the performance was billed as the Joshua Redman Quartet.

The concert started at 8pm with a half-hour opening set from pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. Although to call it a set sounds a bit odd because he seemingly played the same piece--or perhaps just free form piano--for 30 minutes straight.

I hadn't heard of Abrams, but the program bio intimates considerable renown. His playing was certainly impressive, but I can't confess to being truly captivated. Regardless, it was a fine way to start the night. (I had bought a $28 gallery seat just 20 minutes before showtime.)

Walking Shadows is described as an album of ballads and though the Redman Quartet came onstage together, Joshua opened with some subtle playing accompanied only by pianist Goldberg. This sounded nice, but as I prefer my jazz fast and loud--as with most musical forms, especially those with which I only dabble as a fan--things really got great when Hutchinson kicked in on drums and Rogers on bass.

Affable and gracious, Redman said he thinks of Symphony Center/Orchestra Hall as "the largest jazz club in the world," and the respectable-but-not-full crowd repeatedly showered him and his mates with appreciation.

Though he announced each piece played, either before or after, I didn't note most of the titles, just that most were original compositions, several from the new album. I was surprised when he said one was by rock band Blonde Redhead (not that I'm familiar with their music), called "Doll Is Mine."

He later performed a high-velocity piece I believe he called "DGAF," which really allowed the quartet to show off their impressive dexterity, with drummer Hutchinson being particularly impressive along with Redman.

The performance ended around 10:15 with a well-deserved encore, and though I can't provide much acute explanation as to why, I found the entire show to be quite satisfying. Sometimes you just like what you hear, and with Joshua Redman I always have.

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