When you haven't exactly warmed to an artist's latest album, it might make you a little wary about checking them out live. But those who think with a 'glass-is-half-full' attitude would've been in great luck had they been in the audience for this Joshua Redman Band show. The heat generated from that stage was unexpected, at least when based on the cool, detached vibe of Redman's latest disc, "Timeless Tales (For Changing Times)", but what a pleasant surprise to brighten up a dark, rainy March evening.
Delivering two shows this night, Redman and Co. showed no signs of fatigue by the end of the second, which went for about one luscious hour and 30 very fine minutes - actually, they looked like they could've kept going, and the crowd was right there with them. Word was, from one trusted pair of ears, at least, that the late show was (predictably) much more kickin' than the first, which had commenced at the ungodly and unjazz hour of 7:30pm.
From the opening notes of the melancholy, almost "Summertime"ish "Last Rites of Rock and Roll", Redman & co. proved over and over (without really even trying, it seemed) what the hype and fuss is all about, ignored it all, and just went about the business of making great music. By song three, Redman's own "Chill", he was slinkin' around like the Pink Panther as if he'd sprouted tiger stripes; throwing out dangerous sneak horn attacks carried on a vicious swing. His talent is very apparent, but so's the fact that Redman loves what he's doing and obviously works hard at it, riding those notes high to low with no break, no pause, just sliding up and down without any effort whatsoever; playing as if he'd been born with a horn in his mouth, weaned on a mouthpiece with no pacifier in sight. Which, actually, he probably was.
After "Chill" stopped me in my tracks, the stunner "Revolution" came along all cool and insistent piano confidence, forcing the involuntary foot tap and head swing unavoidable at that magic stage when the music's reached the soul and then promptly takes over the body. Then it was back down (or up, depending on how you look at it) with the breath-catching slow, sweet slide of "Never End". Redman's talent belies his years, and with that last name he's got to live up to (not to mention a growing reputation of his own), it's a damned good thing. And so's he. And so's his band, particularly the obviously classically trained pianist Aaron Goldberg, who provided some wow-inspiring moves of his own. I suppose following in regular Redman pianist Brad Mehldau's hyped footsteps is not exactly an easy thing to do, but Goldberg made quite an impression, particularly in the last tune. They finished with an Eastern-tinged "Eleanor Rigby" that even The Beatles might not have recognized, save perhaps Lennon and with certain mind-altering substances present. Redman abandoned his tenor sax (almost making this tenor lover weep) for his soprano, but when he launched into that flutter and trill he still pulled out that husky, deep-from-the-gut-moan that can reach the very heart of the willing listener. Pianist Goldberg sprang upon us his best solo of the night in this last tune, punching very deliberately and dramatically on those poor keys - all tinkly tinkly held-up-high repetitive beats with the right hand while the left funked on down with notes notes notes flying flinging soaring. Beautiful finish.
When you live as far away from New York as Vancouver, you might wonder how different a show you could be getting from the ones on home turf in the Big Apple; it's easy to think that you may be not getting the full energy and passion in a city where the pressure's not necessarily on to be spectacular and where you're already the hottest ticket of the night, or even week. But, if you were at the Joshua Redman Band show this night, you weren't wondering any of that; you were very happy to be right where you were. You were too oblivious to do anything but dig listening to the tunes as much as the band obviously was playing them.