The Joshua Redman Trio
Indianpolis Jazz Festival
September 19, 2009
By the inner compass one finds one's direction, and Joshua Redman didn't fail to find his on the first night of the Indianapolis Jazz Festival at Clowes Memorial Hall. With Gregory Hutchinson on drums and Matt Penmanon bass, they played a few classic covers, but also many songs from his new double-trio album, Compass (Nonesuch, 2008), another exquisite journey from the 40-year-old saxophonist.
Progeny of great musicians are not always prodigies, but as the son of saxophonist, Dewey Redman, Joshua Redman is a blazing exception to this caveat. A nuanced player, he not only demonstrated his grasp of the details on this lovely Indian summer night, but also his developing maturity in the 75-minute set. They began with the old Rodgers-Hammerstein warhorse, "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" from Oklahoma!, with more than enough sassy swing to keep it fresh. They followed with "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," with a winding bass line from Penman that kept it both improvised and rhythmic at the same time.
As matchless as he is in technique on these old melodies, Redman especially took flight on his own compositions. The musical direction is found in the notesthe sax is powered by the breath, though reflecting the heart of the player is neither simple or easy. But Redman has the incantations needed for the taskswitching from alto to tenor sax, he played a series of songs from his new release, plus a couple from previous CDs. His sepia tones on "Soul Dance" and "Ghost" were reminiscent of shreds of half-forgotten memories and magical conversations from long ago. How much he reminds us through the very soul of jazz that this moment is all that lasts.
"Insomnomaniac"dedicated to his sonand "Identity Thief"dedicated to Bank of America (he was kidding), changed the direction of the set by 180 degrees. Both were unrelenting in their pulse, pulling the listener along whether one went willingly or not. His son must be quite a handful (it sounded like his Daddy has experienced many a sleepless night), and the song left the audience laughing. Penman and Hutchinson were fellow masters, the latter alternating between soft, empathetic then commanding, assertive roles when called on by Redman to join the laser-tight interchange. They came back for a medleytheir first try according to Redmanof all of the Blackbird songs out there. It was the perfect cap for the evocative trio.
The opening act was the Dan Tepfer Trio, a fine complement to Redman's group, their mainstay being Tepfer on piano. A contemplative pianist, Tepfer brings to mind E.S.T., whose loss of Esbjörn Svensson in 2008 left a noticeable gap in trio ensemble jazz that Tepfer and his cohorts have the potential to fill.
The night was a brilliant start for the Indianapolis Jazz Festival; it continues on with jambands, Brazilian and Big Bands through September 27th. With the legacy of jazz in Indianapolis rivaling Chicago's and Kansas City's, the spirits of native sons Wes Montgomery and Freddie Hubbard must be happy indeed to see the city come back to its musical roots.