• Joshua Redman at the Portland Jazz Festival

    February 28, 2011. Posted by Alex Rodriguez.

    Add new comment | Filed under: concerts
    Photo by Daniel Shen
    Photo by Daniel Shen

    This week, WBGO web producer and Portland, Oregon native Alex W. Rodriguez traveled to his hometown to attend the Portland Jazz Festival. How has jazz in his hometown fared, eight years after he left for the East Coast? Watch this space to find out, as Alex shares his experiences throughout the main festival weekend.

    On Sunday afternoon, Joshua Redman led one of the Portland Jazz Festival's final engagements alongside a phenomenal rhythm section that featured Aaron Goldberg on piano, Matt Penman on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Their set was everything that jazz audiences have come to expect from Redman's music these days: a virtuosic, energetic and beautiful tour de force that showcased the immense talent of all four musicians.

    Although all four musicians have collaborated extensively in different configurations, Redman told the audience that this was one of their first actual gigs together. They played at least one composition by each of the musicians -- although this was certainly Redman's gig, he took pains to share the spotlight with each of his bandmates.

    The saxophonist was disarmingly plain-spoken when he talked to the audience, a stark contrast to the relentless persona he takes on when playing sax. He was most enthusiastic when discussing the other musicians' tunes -- a song from Goldberg's latest record Home, one from Penman's 2008 CD Catch of the Day and their barn-burning closer from Eric Harland's Voyager Live By Night. Given the amount of awe-inspiring musicianship on display yesterday, I'd say any of those CDs are a good bet to be pretty great -- not to mention Redman's 2009 release, Compass. (I have only checked out Home, one of my favorites from last year.)

    After watching Redman exact a rousing ovation from the nearly-sold-out audience, I decided to skip the final show -- Maceo Parker at the Crystal Ballroom -- in favor of catching my hometown team, the Portland Trail Blazers, with my dad. And lo and behold, who played the national anthem for the packed house? None other than Mr. Redman. He played it pretty straight, and didn't have to worry about remembering the words, but my dad thought it was the best rendition he had seen at the many Blazers games he has attended.

    Sadly, the Blazers didn't return the favor  -- with the home team down 12 at halftime, I spotted Redman and Goldberg leaving their baseline seats. The Blazers went on to lose the game, 90-83.

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