You heard it in science class... for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That maxim works in many spheres outside the scientific, no more so than in jazz. So it was only a matter of time before there was an answer to Jazz at Lincoln Center's "strict-constructionist view of what jazz "is. Where better to shout that answer than San Francisco, where another musical revolution took hold forty years ago.
SFJazzthe Left Coast's leading nonprofit jazz organizationis dedicated to perpetuating the genre as a living, dynamic art form. To that end, the SFJazz Collective was born. Led by artistic director Joshua Redman, the group is in its third year, performing new compositions side by side with selected works from one groundbreaking artist. Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane were the Collective's first two subjects; Live 2006: 3rd Annual Concert Tour chronicles the collective's look at the music of Herbie Hancocka man whose place in jazz refuses to sit still.
Here's another place where SFJazz diverges from JALC. If JALC wanted to examine Hancock's music, it would concentrate on his music alone. SFJazz Collective members must contribute an original work every season. Between the new pieces, Gil Goldstein's arrangements for six of Hancock's best compositions, and the extended rehearsal time SFJazz provides this phenomenal octet, Live 2006 is a tight, powerful, two-disc portrait of what jazz can be when it's given room to move.
To my mind, the experience has had a positive effect on Redman. I've been disappointed with most of his work since MoodSwing (Warner Brothers, 1994). "Parallellogram, which opens disc one, is Redman's best writing to date, and his tenor is consistently spicy throughout the disc. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton flat-out wails here, and his complex composition "Sudoku nails the most challenging thing to happen to puzzles since the New York Times. Miguel Zenon contributes great work on alto sax and flute; his dialogue with Redman on bassist Matt Penham's "Frosted Evils is hypnotic, and Zenon's own "Collective Overture is one of many spaces where all the players can stretch at will.
"Collective also shows how well pianist Renee Rosnes dovetails with vibes master Bobby Hutcherson, a Hancock contemporary who shines throughout, but really glows on the Hancock compositions. Rosnes' nuanced playing style is tailor-made for Hancock's work: her hushed intro to "Maiden Voyage leads us into the most beautiful piece in the set, particularly Goldstein's metamorphosis of the signature horn part into an orchestral crescendo. Trombonist Andre Hayward adds a growling howl to Hancock's "Riot, which is made more explosive by the amazing Eric Harland, whose drum work is reaching Blakey-like levels of intensity and creativity.
Like all living things, jazz needs to breathe, or it will die. SFJazz Collective is pumping serious amounts of fresh air into the mix. Live 2006 combines welcome blasts from jazz's past with the creative spirit of a new generation. Take a deep breath. You'll feel better.
CD1: Parallelogram; And What If I Don
Joshua Redman: tenor sax; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Miguel Zenon: alto sax, flute; Andre Hayward: trombone; Bobby Hutcherson: vibes, marimba; Renee Rosnes: piano; Matt Penham: bass; Eric Harland: drums.