Many of us like to think that we listen to music that is new and fresh and infinitely cooler than our parents’.
Yet, with a balding scalp to my front, a lumber jack beard to my left and a 50-year-old standing with his ass in my face to my right, I could not help but notice that most of the audience was far older than I was as I sat in my aisle seat in Campbell.
Why is this? Are Arts & Lectures’ high ticket prices filtering out the college student patrons? Maybe. Am I a lot less cool than I thought I was? Most likely. Is Josh Redman creating great music that is universally relevant to all ages? Definitely.
Redman leads the SFJAZZ Collective, an all-star octet of some of the best jazz musicians in the world. In this year’s performance, the Collective split its repertoire, half original pieces by each band member and half modern interpretations of John Coltrane compositions.
The music was unusually compelling, and it rarely carried the ubiquitous jazz texture of consistent cymbal patterns, walking bass lines and sporadic seventh chords. The group constantly morphed the texture and changed the color of its performance to suit the musical moment.
One song began with just bass and vibraphone, another with a flurry of indiscriminant vocal sounds. An interpretation of Coltrane’s “Africa” evoked primal images of the African wilderness as the horns imitated sounds of elephants and wild birds, while drummer Eric Harland’s original composition sounded like the positive, you-can-do-it music from a self-help video injected with steroids.
SFJAZZ Collective’s ageless appeal may be related to its poignant blend of cross-generational stylings. The group draws from decades of influences to form its ever-changing style. Sometimes pretty, sometimes ugly, the songs often begin tranquilly and climax aggressively. And though you can’t really dance to it, the music definitely makes you bob your head.
Furthering the group’s stylistic range is the fact that each member of the SFJAZZ Collective is contributing his or her own compositions. All of the musicians are “doing their own projects all year. It is not the dominant thing in everyone’s lives. It is just a thing each of us do,” says Redman. “Each one brings their own thing to it and we come together fresh.”
It is not so surprising that Josh Redman attracts fans of all ages. Redman has always drawn from a number of musical perspectives and influences that most musicians are not lucky enough to get. Son of avant-garde tenor sax player Dewey Redman, Josh was surrounded by a variety of music from a very young age. After growing up in Berkeley, California’s music scene, graduating from Harvard University with a social studies degree and playing with some of the biggest names in jazz, Redman has gathered a unique wealth of cultural and musical insight.
“I am always challenging myself,” said Redman as he reflected on his career after the show. And with such a wealth of experience in his past, it seems we will be sure to see good things in Redman’s future.
Redman’s album Momentum comes out May 24, 2005.