Joshua Redman - QEH, Thursday 22 Nov - London Jazz Festival

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The genre of the sax-bass-drums jazz trio is dogged with constant comparisons to Sonny Rollins’s landmark recordings, so it took someone with the charisma and sheer musical talent of Joshua Redman to transcend these comparisons. Indeed, given a Mohawk and dark sunglasses, Redman could pass for Rollins in his prime. Joshua Redman - QEH, Thursday 22 Nov - London Jazz Festival
Redman and his trio were the darlings of the sold out audience of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a connection built on Redman’s rapport with the audience as he chatted into the mic combined with some awesome improvising on the saxophone, double bass and drum kit. 

Supporting act Empirical were on fine form playing a set entirely made up of original compositions, blending abstract passages with some amazing up-tempo improvisation and the kind of group dynamic that made a truly compelling performance: worthy of Joshua Redman’s glowing approval when he thanked them in the second act. Saxophonist Nathaniel Facey was in competition with Redman for quote of the evening with his brilliant quotation from Ornette Coleman’s ‘Lonely Woman’ standing up strong against Redman’s ‘Let’s Fall in Love’ quote in the second half.  

The Redman trio opened with hardy jazz perennial ‘Surrey with the Fringe On Top’ and Redman, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Greg Hutchinson injected some sparkling energy into the well worn changes, with some seriously molten licks pouring from Redman’s tenor while the rhythm section created constant tension through stop-starts, colliding two and four-feel rhythms and a superb grasp of dynamics.

The band were at their best on Redman original ‘Hey Mama’, where Redman burned away on his wailing tenor before segueing into a thrilling exchange between Hutchinson’s Tain Watts-style powerhouse polyrhythms and Redman’s mighty tenor. As Redman gave the audience a sly wink while the final high-energy recapitulation kicked in, the massive roar of the audience was well-earned.

Mark Trounson