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Joshua Redman Group at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Joshua Redman Group at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Courtesy C. Andrew Hovan

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Joshua Redman Group featuring Gabrielle Cavassa
Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, Ohio
January 10, 2024

While the Cleveland Museum of Art is acknowledged worldwide for its fine collection of works, the performance space provided by the 683-seat Gartner Auditorium has seen its share of ups and downs. Built in 1971, the hall boasts a renowned Holtkamp pipe organ and was home to many concerts of all genres over the decades. With the support of the long-defunct Northeast Ohio Jazz Society, the space hosted many special performances in the '90s including Ron Carter's string quartet and the world premiere of David Murray's Picasso Suite.

Due to multiple concerns, the hall was closed by the museum in 2005, not to again reopen to audiences until February of 2010. By that point, a multi-million dollar renovation project corrected the acoustical issues that had plagued the performance space from its inception. The hall and performing arts program received a new lease on life with the appointment of Gabe Pollack as the director. Having previously served as the manager of The Bop Stop, Cleveland's premier jazz club, Pollack has brought a wealth of experience to his new position at the museum.

The foregoing is to suggest the significance of the museum's renewed efforts to offer their hall as a space for music performances. With this concert by Joshua Redman and Pollack's known preferences, this should bode well for jazz returning to Gartner on a regular basis. Redman and his crew of young talents were on the road in support of their current Blue Note release, Where Are We, and their generous set offered a wide variety of material that a packed house seemed to enjoy.

Paul Cornish's rollicking piano opened the evening as singer Gabrielle Cavassa fell in with the familiar lyrics to the Jimmy Rushing/Count Basie standard "Goin' to Chicago." The altered chords and Cavassa's breathy vocals, not unlike that of Norah Jones, gave the whole number an ethereal feel that clearly operated in its own space. Another stellar opening gambit from Cornish ushered in the subsequent "Streets of Philadelphia," which proved to be a high octane showcase for Redman's burly tenor work.

Redman would then take take the microphone to wax poetic about how long it had been since he was last in Cleveland and the venues that he had graced at the start of his career. With little in the way of introduction, the crowd immediately recognized the band's take on the iconic "Hotel California." The group also struck a nerve with a romantic version of Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," the vibe created by Cavassa and Redman hinting at similiar historic collaborations such as those by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto.

Those looking for material set in a swinging vein would find very little beyond the group's rendition of Betty Carter's "New England." Bassist Phillip Norris opened the catchy trinket with a dazzling display of technique, drummer Nazir Ebo's brush work fanning the flames throughout. By contrast, Redman's original written around the time of George Floyd's death, "After Minneapolis," proved to be a solemn tone poem that suitably seemed to inhabit a dark space.

Ebo's deft drum work told its own story at the opening of the standard "You and the Night and the Music." Oddly enough, Redman chose to solo over a two-chord vamp, not the form of the tune, which is the standard convention. Cornish offered his own sterling solo and even as the crowd rose to their feet at the number's conclusion, no encore was offered. As to the overall experience, Cavassa's demure and shy delivery seemed to be in stark contrast to Redman's consistently animated work. Whether or not this is to be considered a good or bad thing is in the eye of the beholder.

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