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Redman's energy drives Guild concert

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:23 p.m.

Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman brings a distinct energy to a mainstream sound.

Whether playing Charlie Parker tunes or his own dynamic originals, Redman approaches the work with imagination and freshness, as he showed at two concerts Nov. 23 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.

He was playing in a saxophone quartet, one of the most traditional form in jazz, but he and his sideman looked at each number with enough creativity they kept away from staleness.

This band does not offer edgy, innovative jazz, but its hard work makes it worth hearing.

Maybe the most important element in Redman's playing is his technical mastery. He can burn through wickedly complex passages and slow down convincingly for more relaxed ones. His tone is solid and rich, never showing and reediness. He can move from solid low notes to an upper register that never shrieks.

Besides originals like his new “Friend or Foe” and an older “Courage,” the concert included numbers such as Wayne Shorter's lovely ”Infant Eyes” and Parker's “Bloomido.”

In some ways, the latter two expressed the variety of his work.

The Shorter piece is a pretty number Redman did on his current “Walking Shadows” album. Redman's opening statement ended in a lower cluster of notes that matched the opening of a solo by bassist Reuben Rogers.

On the other side of this ensemble cohesion, when Redman began his closing choruses, he joined in at the upper-register notes with which pianist Aaron Goldberg was finishing his solo.

It was better than the version on the album with a string section.

The beauty of that song was matched with the modernized bebop of the band's version of “Bloomido.” The number, of course, has the sizzle that is expected in Parker tunes, but the band gave it a more 21st Century rhythmic sound. Redman's brisk statements, which included some quotes from Thelonious Monk classics, were done with crispness and unerring control.

Drummer Gregory Hutchinson, who offered powerful work all evening, put together a solo using his brushes, but getting a great deal of power from them. He opened the number with a different approach, using hand-drum passages to create the bob-like feel.

Pianist Goldberg grew steadily more impressive as the set continued. In “Courage,” his backup work and solo seemed a bit tentative, but both functions got getter on the next tune, “Disco Ears.” By the time the band was in the Parker piece, he put together a solo that drew shouts of appreciation.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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