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REVIEW Joshua Redman @ Luckman Theater (JamBase)

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Tuesday March 30, 2010

(From JamBase)

By: Jamie Dewaele
Published: March 26, 2010

Joshua Redman Trio :: 03.06.10 :: Luckman Theater :: Los Angeles, CA

When the conversation ensues about who is carrying on the great tradition of jazz musicianship today, names like Charlie Hunter, Christian McBride, and the entire Marsalis family will undoubtedly be mentioned. If Joshua Redman’s name does not come up, the conversation is not worth having.

Tucked into a back corner of California State University’s Los Angeles campus is one of the most beautiful and acoustically perfect rooms in Southern California. It is called the Luckman Fine Arts Complex and it is probably unknown to most concertgoers in the Los Angeles area. But this is the kind of venue one has to visit in order to see bands like the Joshua Redman Trio.

Joshua Redman was born and raised in Berkley, CA. He attended Harvard University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Social Studies. He was then accepted into Yale Law School, but decided instead to take a year off and he moved to New York City where he began playing with a plethora of jazz musicians. His career and skill blossomed over the next few years and by 1994 he was touring as a bandleader. The outstanding list of musicians he has played with since then includes, but is not limited to Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, Dave Matthews, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and even The Rolling Stones. The trio for his current tour includes the amazing Reuben Rogers on stand-up bass and the melodic drumming of Bill Stewart.

Reuben Rogers is a Berklee School of Music graduate and has an impressive list of collaborators that includes Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton and Dianne Reeves. Bill Stewart has been on the jazz scene for a long time. While Redman and Rogers were still in college, Stewart was playing with legendary musicians such as John Scofield, James Brown, Michael Brecker and Maceo Parker. To make a long story short, there was no shortage of talent onstage at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on that stormy Saturday night.

Ticket time for the show was 8:00, and by 8:15 the venue started to fill up. The seated crowd was a mixture of middle-aged jazz fans and students that evidently attend Cal State. Without a word, the Trio took the stage and jumped right into the first song of the night: Redman’s interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic composition from Oklahoma! entitled “The Surrey With a Fringe on Top.” They would play two more tunes before Redman thanked the crowd for braving the elements and introduced his band. The most impressive song in the first portion was “Ghost,” which appears on his latest album, Compass. The composition began with a lengthy and driving bass intro by Rogers, with Redman playing a slow melodic sax and Stewart playing a shuffle beat with brushes. As the song began to gain momentum, Redman’s playing became more complex and around the middle of the tune the Trio had built an explosive jam that featured some of the most ambitious and risk-taking musicianship of the evening.

All three musicians onstage were fun to watch, each losing themselves in a moment of creative perfection. Redman plays his saxophone with his entire body, swinging it back and forth, raising his knee to his chest with screams of “Hey!” or “Woah!” in between notes, much to the delight of the 750 or so in attendance. The key to any successful band is a good rhythm section and Stewart and Rogers did not disappoint. While Redman was exploding through his saxophone, Stewart and Rogers were trading licks, laughing, and all the while providing a solid base for Redman to use as his jumping off point. Almost every song of the night began with a slow, melodic sax or bass solo, built up into the composition, then to the jam, and finally fading away to close the song.

Other notable tunes of the night included “Souldancing,” “Identity Thief” and the short but absolutely smoking interpretation of Joe Lovano’s “Blackwell’s Message.” However, the musical highlight of the evening was the final song before the encore. The title of this tune is a mystery and even the soundman did not know the name. It began with a lengthy sax solo that showcased the amount of talent Redman possesses. No one in the theater took a breath during the solo. When he concluded, the crowd burst forth with their loudest applause of the evening, and the song had not even started yet. That final unnamed composition was easily the high point of the night featuring outstanding musicianship from all three men. When the song ended, the crowd leapt to their feet for a much-deserved standing ovation. This version of the Joshua Redman Trio is not to be missed.

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