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James Farm: Cinematic Jazz Goes POP

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Friday May 25, 2012

From San Jose Mercury News

Review: James Farm: Cinematic jazz goes POP
By: Richard Scheinin

One band, four assertive voices. That’s James Farm, an all-star group that at its best goes sailing through a cinematic landscape that’s unique in jazz. Quickly, it moves: episode to episode, mood to mood, groove to groove. It can get a little schizzy, but when the band settles into its mission of collective imagination, watch out.

Opening its second show Thursday at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, James Farm — which performs through Sunday at Yoshi’s in Oakland — settled into “Coax,” a tune by its bassist, Matt Penman. The scene: Open skies, gliding rhythms, a sensation of uplift. Then saxophonist Joshua Redman went sailing like a kite: circling, swooping, looping; breezy and perfect lines throughout his solo, played with that finely sandpapered tone of his.

The kite landed, and Redman kept playing, alone and quietly.

Drummer Eric Harland joined him: an undertow of rapid hits on his bass drum, which Redman matched, tonguing a note for each drum stroke. It lasted only a few seconds; the two were hinting at something — and the band broke out into a spin-like-a-top rock beat. Crisp, bouncing, happy; it got ecstatic, quickly. If this weren’t a jazz club, the college students in the crowd might have rushed the stage, or at least stood up and danced to this tune, Redman’s “Polliwog.”

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