The Freddie Redd Septet threw a party for bebop at the plush Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, with a little help from the city and Rocco Somazzi. Choosing an enviable array of LA allstars, Redd and Co. played 12 classics from the bebop era with steam and enthusiasm. To sweeten the deal, early arrivals were treated to a rare showing of Shirley Clarke's 1961 film, The Connection
, featuring footage of a Freddy Redd Quartet featuring Jackie McLean playing Redd's film score.
Originally a long running well traveled play, the film adaptation captures the heavy claustrophobia of the one set Living Theatre staging. Eight or ten men grow increasingly junk sick waiting for the man in a dingy apartment. Happily, four of the men are the Freddie Redd Quartet, who despite various physical conditions play consistently cool skillful up-tempo bebop when they can rouse themselves. The young Redd plays it surly, while the young Jackie McLean wears a charismatic glow.
A complex subplot involves two men filming the waiting, the fix, and the aftermath for a documentary, the director succumbing to the junky urgings to give it a try. The first one's free. Throughout, the participants rant, complain, philosophize, dream, and attack eachother, both before and after the arrival of "Cowboy. The two man camera team device facilitates jump cuts and a necessary roughness. The quartet's spontaneous outpourings fuel the narrative's momentum while offering a respite from the dialogue.
After a short intermission, Redd, bassist Herb Mickman, and drummer Clarence Johnston took the stage to play Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time. Herman Riley entered stage left blowing. His ornate, hair raising improvisations thrilled the near capacity audience throughout the evening. His ideas flowed and gushed in torrents that swept through each composition with authority. Joining Riley in the fast lane, Zane Musa blistered his alto whenever allowed to solo. Natty in a hipster's suit, Musa laid it on the line everytime, blowing lung busting lines and soulful howls.
LA horn great Sal Marquez played his share of virtuoso runs on trumpet and flugelhorn, but also varied the intensity with smaller, less cluttered figures. His muted trumpet on "Round Midnight, caught the desolation of the piece, although compared to his open work, the muted segments were undermiked. Open, the full impact of his formidable skill connected, his flugelhorn especially oozing honeyed brass. Trombonist Phil Ranelin's unique phrasing and musical wisdom shone through, utilizing space and understatement to stroll through harrowing tempos.
With a small as broad as his signature hat's brim, Mr. Redd accompanied the formidable ensemble with his characteristic elegance and grace, even entering into call and response with the volcanic Musa. He played striking variations on "Round Midnight, and let his right hand run on "Ornithology. On a full throttled "Cherokee, he essayed seamless flow. Mickman and Johnston kept everyone's feet on the floor, the former contributing occasional spidery solos, the latter rock solid rhythm.
With a powerhouse band of top instrumentalists, Redd proved the timeless appeal of the classic bebop repertoire.