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Joshua Redman lives "within a rare tier of jazz prominence"

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Friday October 31, 2014

From The New York Times

A Skill Set Wired for Direct Connection
Joshua Redman Trio Plays the Village Vanguard
By: Nate Chinen

For the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s possible to take inventory of the attributes that have kept Joshua Redman within a rare tier of jazz prominence for the last 20 years. Start with his warmly agreeable sound on tenor saxophone, dry and woodsy and controlled. Add his brisk fluency on the instrument, notably in its finicky altissimo range.

Factor in his energetic composure as a bandleader, along with his articulate grace as a composer and arranger. Consider, too, his pliable relationship to the postbop idiom and his broad-minded idea of repertory. Maybe also mention the jackpot quality of his arrival as a prepossessing young turk, back when the market was set up for such a thing.

Tally it all up, though, and you’d still be short of a satisfying explanation for Mr. Redman’s enduring stature, because the heart of his success lies somewhere else: in the forthright connection he makes with an audience. That sounds obvious, but it’s a differentiating factor between Mr. Redman and most of his peers, who otherwise come similarly equipped. And the issue isn’t all about showmanship, which can often ring condescending or glib; it’s about diligence, sensitivity and a kind of implicit trust.

The audience that crowded into the Village Vanguard on Tuesday night, for the first set of Mr. Redman’s weeklong trio run, locked into his frequency immediately. He opened with “Hutchhiker’s Guide,” a medium-bright swinger whose melody consists mainly of peekaboo feints: pockets of space for his drummer, Gregory Hutchinson, to fill. The tune carried an unspoken tribute to Sonny Rollins, who long ago set the standard for tenor trios, notably on the Vanguard stage; it also established a baseline spirit of joy.

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