This Week in JazzSet History: David Murray Big Band and Josh Redman
March 21, 2012. Posted by Alex Ariff.
It’s now the eleventh week of the twentieth anniversary year of JazzSet, and the fifth installment of an archeological dig, as Alexander Gelles Ariff of the Jazz History Department at Rutgers University Newark trowels through the JazzSet archive, one week at a time.
This week in JazzSet history, we take a closer examination at two moments in the career of saxophonist Joshua Redman. He is one of my personal favorite horn players of recent decades and will be appearing with pianist Brad Meladau as a duo on April 27 in Morristown, NJ. From his long-running work with Christian McBride to his new explorations with James Farm, Redman is always working hard at shaping his playing into different musical environments. This week, we follow Redman from acoustic to electric.
But first, let’s check out this rare recording that I dug up featuring the David Murray Big Band performing “Warm Valley,” a lesser-known but captivating Ellington tune. The band features David Murray, tenor sax and bass clarinet; James Newton, flute; James Spaulding, alto sax; John Purcell, saxello and clarinet; Ricky Ford, tenor sax; Hamiet Bluiett, bari sax; Hugh Ragin, Ravi Best and Rasul Siddick on trumpets; Craig Harris, Gary Valente and Joe Bowie on trombones; Hilton Ruiz, piano; Jaribu Shahid, bass; Klod Kaivue, percussion; Andrew Cyrille, drums; and Carmen Bradford on vocals.
This recording is from their performance at the 1999 Marciac Jazz Festival in Southwest France (courtesy of Radio France). A few weeks ago, we posted a clip of Bobby McFerrin at the the 2001 festival. The David Murray Big Band was performing obscure works by Strayhorn and Ellington in celebration for what would have been Ellington’s 100th birthday year! They performed “Praise God,” “Love You Madly,” but it was “Warm Valley” that blew me away. Listen to how Spaulding and Branford vibe off each other on the words “wonderfully” and “marvelously.”
On November 19, 1994, JazzSet's Duke Markos recorded a double bill at the Troy Savings Bank Musical Hall in Troy, NY, presenting the Joshua Redman Quartet plus the Roy Hargrove Quintet. The quartet was Redman, tenor and soprano sax; Jonny King, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Brian Blade, drums. Redman’s band played first that evening but invited Hargrove on stage for Josh's final tune “SJK,” a blues in D-flat. Listen closely. After Redman introduces Hargrove, the rhythm section begins to play the Freddie Hubbard tune “Thermok,” as broadcast on JazzSet in early April 1995.
Here is a clip of Joshua Redman on tenor playing the melody to his own tune entitled “Alone in the Morning.” He first begins by closing out the melody with long drawn out lyricism. His solo begins afterward and he plays with one motive, switching it up and crafting it against the harmony. This is a tactic of improvisation Sonny Rollins uses many times in his early years. It makes sense that the first record Redman ever bought, when he was nine years old, was the Rollins recording Saxophone Colossus. Listen closely for the “St. Thomas” quote at the end of the clip!
By 1994, three years after winning the Thelonious Monk competition, Redman had three albums as a leader to his name. Six releases later, he phased into a new period of musical exploration with his Elastic Band featuring Sam Yahel, keyboards and bass keyboards, and Brian Blade on drums. In this band, Redman was able to fuse electronic effects with his love of funk and swing. This groove, I like to call “swunk.” This is from "Greasy G," from the trio’s second release, Momentum. Listen to how Redman manipulates the sound of his horn, compiling octaves with pedals to make one horn sound like a baritone sax and tenor sax at once!
I’ll close this week out with one of my favorite tunes by Ornette Coleman. I first heard the tune “Lonely Woman” as played by the Elastic Band. That's how I was exposed to Ornette Coleman. Thanks, Josh. At the stroke of midnight, live on NPR from Yoshi's in Oakland, Redman’s group brought in 2005 by taking the audience on a journey leaning more towards drum-and-bass than free-jazz. It must have been a blast. And it was rebroadcast on JazzSet in February, 2007.
Alexander Gelles Ariff has a B.A. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University and is now completing his Master's in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers-Newark. He is the recipient of the Morroe Berger - Benny Carter Jazz Research Fund Award from the Institute of Jazz Studies. Alex is writing his Master's thesis on the selected recorded collaboration between jazz figures and American poets -- Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, and Langston Hughes.
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