Believe the hype! The SFJAZZ Collective is for real! The gang gathered at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan for their east coast engagement in the aesthetically stunning and acoustically awe-inspiring Rose Theater this March 25 and March 26, 2005. Let me say right off the top that this is one of the most refreshing and exciting jazz concerts that I've seen in many, many years. Incredible energy, talent and passion.
The SFJAZZ Collective is a superband of young jazz wizards woven with wisdom by Bobby Hutcherson. Fronted by Artistic Director Joshua Redman, the band consists of incredible individuals that combine to make a machine that churns with wanton precision. In their second year of existence, the SFJAZZ Collective is already polished and powerful; poetry in motion.
The SFAZZ Collective is: Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone), Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone), Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Miguel Zenon (alto saxophone), Isaac Smith (trombone), Renee Rosnes (piano), Matt Penman (bass) and Eric Harland (drums), with arranger Gil Goldstein. Each one of these performers came to play! And play hard!
With an astonishing display of showmanship on beautifully sculpted original compositions, to the music of John Coltrane, this was true art. The magnificent acoustics of Rose Theater were eloquently evident in the warm, soft sound of Mr. Hutcherson's wooden marimba keys. You could hear a pin drop.
"For all of us in the SFJAZZ Collective, professes Mr. Redman, "this project has been uniquely inspiring and deeply gratifying in a multitude of ways; the challenge of performing some of John Coltrane's most compelling and provocative work; the privilege of writing, rehearsing and premiering our own compositions; and the excitement of hearing all this material evolve along with our group identity, sound and spirit over more than a month of adventurous work and intensive play. We hope you enjoy this music as much as we enjoy bringing it to you.
For this magical evening, the SFJAZZ Collective intermingled original, complex and joyful compositions with some of Coltrane's strongest statements including "Moment's Notice", "Naima" and "Africa." Alto saxman Mr. Zenon's own piece, "Two and Two", kicked off the concert with style and grace. Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" followed with a powerful trumpet solo by Mr. Payton...lush low register, and sounding a lot like a little of Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan. "Naima" was lovingly shared. An original by bassman Penman called "Sega Games" (I believe) followed then a smokin' Nicholas Payton tune called "Scrambled Eggs."
But it was when Joshua spiritually led the band into Coltrane's "Africa", that real magic sparkled and inspired. The fire that Mr. Redman breathed into his tenor, the earthy touch that veteran master Mr. Hutcherson laid down on his vibraphone, the burning trumpet bursts of Brother Payton, the rolling riffs and sputters of trombonist Mr. Smith, the solid foundation laid down by bassist Mr. Penman, the expressive, intricate ivories of pianist Ms. Rosnes and the thundering power of rhythmic monster Mr. Harland- all combine to take your breath away. This was truly a special evening. This is truly a special band.
"In this undertaking, I am thrilled to be collaborating with some of the most original and dedicated musicians in jazz today, says Mr. Redman. "Beyond each member's individual credentials as a world-class instrumentalist, composer and bandleader, I believe everyone shares the essential values of spontaneity, flexibility and empathy, along with a firm commitment to an integrated group sound. This is why we chose the name 'Collective.' Our goal is to have as cooperative an ensemble as possible. While, at times, you may very well see and hear each of us stepping briefly into the role of a 'leader,' you will also, I hope, experience a more dynamic and democratic interplay as the performance unfolds.
It didn't just unfold, it rushed forward like a white-water river...crisp, clean, so chilled it feels warm. In my opinion, the musicianship of the SFJAZZ Collective is, without a doubt, a force to be reckoned with in today's jazz offerings. Do yourself a favor and go see this ensemble when they roll into your town.
Visit SFJazz on the web.
SFJAZZ Collective in Mountain View, CA
Carolyn Appel/Jazz at Lincoln Center