I went to the second packed-out night of Joshua Redman’s Double Trio at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. He introduced the audience to their music with an interesting remark: “We hope you enjoy this almost as much as we do. Because you couldn’t enjoy it more than we do.”
With the Double Trio, Redman has unleashed a band capable of communicating the sheer joy and exhilaration of live music-making as vividly and completely as any I have ever heard. It is a band which puts Redman’s wish to communicate with an audience in a perfect setting. The level of energy, rhythmic excitement and mischief which these five players deliver will stay in the mind for a very long time.
Let’s start in the back row of the bus. The two basses Reuben Rogers and Matt Penman stand shoulder to shoulder. They’re appreciating and enjoying each other’s work,cracking the occasional joke, having a great time. When two bass players get together like this, they must ask themselves questions: why they do they belong to a profession where responsibility doesn’t tend to be shared? Why do they not normally have another player at eye level like this? Why is this so much fun? Musically they dovetail superbly, they have ruses to stay out of each other’s way most of the time, it’s what they do. Rogers often plays a sonorous lower part, his eyes sometimes fixed downwards on Penman’s hands producing the higher sounds. Rogers has astonishing resonance in the sound. Penman can set up the most powerful of grooves, but they both aid, abet, and clearly respect each other. When they combined as an eight-stringed instrument, as in the final scheduled number, Gil Evans’ Barracuda, they can get a storm going, and they thoroughly deserved the tumultuous applause they received.
The drummers, Gregory Hutchinson and Bill Stewart are on either side of the stage like those lions guarding the New York Public Library. You know from the start that they will at some point choose to do battlle with each other, but from a safe distance. Both have ideal combinations of power and control. But they are like coiled springs. When either is just marking, time the listener just knows that, either separately or combined the the full hurricane will be worth waiting for
And at the front is Redman. Whether playing or waiting, he registers approval, purrs contentment, whoops and squeals joy at the sights and sounds behind and around him. He bobs up and down like a surfer. He might be the conductor of a vast orchestra, or the tamer of the most ferocious of beasts. Redman is among the most communicative of players, he holds interest the whole time with his variety of expression and persuasiveness of line. If the heat in JazzHouse hadn’t been so intense, I could have happily listened to Redman and his co-conspirators play for hours.
His compositions produce great variety, making the band suddenly switch from supercharged volume to to playing softly, with tenderness and simplicity.The first and last numbers of the scheduled set – Redman’s Identity Thief, and Gil Evans’ Barracuda, were played by the full complement, and in between there are combinations and permutations. Redman gets a different rhythm section for every number. The full band came back for two encores, one classical the other a funk-shuffle.
And Joshua Redman’s remark wil stay with me too: he was delivering it the people of the world’s happiest nation an interesting challenge. If they were happy on arrival, they were clearly ecstatic by the time they departed. And they showed it.