SFJazz Collective: SFJAZZ Collective (2005)
Sometimes an artist receives too much exposure too early in his or her career. Case in point: saxophonist Joshua Redman, who became a leader too soon with his self-titled debut in '93. Granted he'd had some experience in the previous couple of years with father Dewey, as well as with drummer Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band. But it seemed that things happened all too quickly; his second album, Wish, was an all-star affair with guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Billy Higgins. Redman seemed thrust into the spotlight all too soon, and while he demonstrated promise, he wasn't totally ready for that kind of exposure.
But Warner Brothers' faith in his potential was obviously well founded. Fast forward to 2005. His new label, Nonesuch, just released two discs on the same day featuring him in seemingly diametrically-opposed contextsMomentum, with his groove-centric Elastic Band, and the all-acoustic SF Jazz Collective, the first commercial release by the San Francisco-based musical cooperative for which Redman became artistic director not long after his relocation from New York to his native California in '02.
With an all-star cast that includes vibraphone legend Bobby Hutcherson, up-and-coming saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, trombonist Josh Roseman, long under-acknowledged pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Robert Hurts, and drummer Brian Bladewho's capable in any context, from Bob Dylan to Wayne ShorterRedman has a group with the kind of broad-based possibility that makes SF Jazz Collective a remarkable blend of long-form composition and open-ended improvisation.
The Collective's premise is to perform one set from a modern jazz composer. Their '04 tour, from which these live performances were culled, paid tribute to Ornette Coleman (this year's West Coast tour will feature pieces by John Coltrane). It also inludes one set of compositions from band members, so there's a rich diversity from the get go. Zenon's opening "Lingala was inspired by a trip to Zaire, and the rich polyrhythmic tradition is a defining factor, as are the multiple striking melodies that ultimately find their way together for the tune's climax. Rosnes' "On This Day's Journey begins as a gentle waltz that features Hutcherson's always-striking improvisational construction over a soft cushion of flute and soprano saxbut it ultimately evolves from a funky modal vamp, which acts as a foundation for a powerful Zenon solo, into a briskly-swinging section that reveals Rosnes' strength as an imaginative post bop player.
The three Coleman tunes, scored by veteran arranger Gil Goldstein"Peace, "When Will the Blues Leave and "Una Muy Bonita retain Coleman's adventurous spirit yet introduce a stronger sense of form and, consequently, fit in perfectly with the rest of the program.
A clear justification of not only Redman's long-promised potential but also the inestimable power of musical collaboration and cooperation, SF Jazz Collective is a thoroughly modern album of post bop that should find an audience among traditionalists and forward-thinkers alike.
Track Listing: Lingala; Peace; Of This Day's Journey; When Will the Blues Leave; Rise and Fall; Una Muy Bonita; March Madness
Personnel: Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone, marimba); Joshua Redman (tenor and soprano saxophones, artistic director); Nicholas Payton (trumpet); Miguel Zenon (alto saxophonie, flute); Josh Roseman (trombone); Renee Rosnes (piano); Robert Hurst (bass); Brian Blade (drums)