The second coming of the JVC Jazz Festival-Miami Beach started small on May 15 2002. A trio, consisting of Matt Wilson on drums, a John something or other in bass and Redman playing tenor sax, Chinese cornet, his voice, gestures and character at Jazid. In such a venue, almost anyone can conjure a “standing room only” crowd since it can pass as a living room with a bar and a second floor master bedroom with yet another bar. Having said that, the music and the good times had were enormous and the WDNA 88.9 FM staff in attendance duly appreciated the support.
Redman played two sets, with an upstairs solitude-seeking break, that had the audience, whooping and hollering throughout the evening. These fellows engaged the material with earnest as the repertoire included plenty of opportunities for all concerned to shine. Jazz was represented by both accessible and challenging expressions, although the vocabulary of the musicians was rather advanced. Since there were so many knowledgeable people in the public, such as Gary Keller, Arturo Gómez Cruz, personnel from the Rhythm Foundation, Nicole Yarling, Frank Consola, Joe Donato, Gary Campbell, old radio hands from the heyday of Miami’s radio jazz days (during the ‘70s, Miami had China Valles, Symphony Sid and a host of similar radio giants all under one radio roof), a slew of local musicians and an admiring crowd that encompassed any age and lifestyle you can almost imagine, the reigning vibe was thrilling.
Dewey Redman can play. He blew, honked, lured, entertained and mingled with the crowd as he played, while leading the rest of the group with his expertise. His playing was very strong and as updated, ahead and traditional as he could muster. His tone, ideas and framework for them, was impeccable. Matt Wilson’s drumming was a delight to hear and behold as he kept a steady driving impetus flowing through various textures, hits and uncommon percussive notions. The bassist did not lag behind in swing, intelligence and challenges for himself, the members of the band, as well as the audience at hand.
During the last tune, a fellow joined the musicians during the final frolic axing his alto sax. Redman indicated that he was a friend who just had moved to Miami. His name was Byard Lancaster. He had a great time with the group and showed sturdy chops.
Although every source I know lists Redman’s birthday as May 17, a birthday cake appeared at the end of the gig as everyone wished him a happy birthday in collective song. Just as the cake appeared, the gig was up and Redman quickly exited the night upstairs and into a memorable register in everyone who had the chance to have fun while blowing all cares into superb jazz à la Redman. However, was it his birthday or not?