Joshua Redman Trio, Village Vanguard, NYC- 3/18
People were still pushing their way down the narrow staircase to the subterranean Vanguard, with its tight seating and strange polygon shape, as Joshua Redman began a cool, detached solo. Were gonna shut the door if you dont back up, someone shouted, and Redman, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer extraordinaire Brian Blade were laughing as they skipped into a loose interpretation of the standard Mack the Knife. But Rogers and Blade are all smiles while Redman is up on one long, lanky leg, eyes closed, just blowin, and Blade bursts and slaps and holds his right hand back over and over, almost pumping it before he finds just the right moment to jab it down at a cymbal. It may have been a very old standard, but it was also an intense reading. Those cymbals slipped back into the forefront during an older Redman composition, Herbs and Roots, they actually seemed to grow enormous as the drummer hopped up from his seat repeatedly while carving out a cacophonous solo at the end of the tune. The set continued with a newer piece entitled Little Ditty, a piece pretty like a lullaby with a gorgeous bass/sax duo to start. Rogers had a long solo in the middle of the number, lingering far in the deep end, and then attacking the high notes, all tucked in close over the strings. Meanwhile, Blade was lightly comping with his hands, brushes and an array of sticks. He seemed to hover above the time signature, choosing when and where he wanted to indicate the shape of the rhythm structure- a master.
Like a true working band, the trio then gave their efforts to Un Peu Feu, the first of two debuts that night, followed by a short cover of Monks Trinkle Tinkle. The only number off of Redmans recent Back East, Indonesia found the group moving toward even more challenging channels. As the song began to build upon itself, Redman was bleating and screaming out rushes of notes, lurching dramatically at his microphone, at Blade, at the microphone again. The set closed with the second debut, a long, variegated tune called Yearn. It was the headiest piece of the night, despite the fact that it had less in the way of cutting loose. Instead, it stretched through a number of different sections, laying out textures and moods, letting them linger as the trio moved on. The sheet music was hanging off the music stands by the end, Rogers even leaning up against the wall to read a dangling page near the finale. Brave performance, excellent music.