Joshua Redman - QEH, Thursday 22nd November - London Jazz Festival

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The youthful Empirical were clearly enjoying themselves as they opened the evening for Joshua Redman.  Buzzing on the success of their debut album, the Quintet played all their own compositions to a sold out venue.  When Redman finally took to the stage he admitted that he’d never heard of these guys before, but whoever booked them had it just right.  With echoing, heavily pedalled piano and a drummer playing far beyond his years, Empirical anticipated the joyful playing of Redman’s trio. Joshua Redman - QEH, Thursday 22nd November - London Jazz Festival
Redman’s initial relaxed entrance to the packed out show gave no hint of the involved and passionate performance that was to come.  He put his whole body into his heavily animated and explosively rhythmic sax playing.  Such exuberance was contrasted with the chilled out yet warm melodies on his cover of ‘East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)’.  Other stand out songs of the night included ‘Zarafah’, which saw Redman take on some phenomenally high pitch bending, and an untitled track “affectionately known as ‘New Trio Tune No. 4’.”

Despite the accomplished playing on show in the evening’s concert, the mood never became heavy.  With a mock bar and bar stool positioned on stage, Redman occasionally wandered over for a bit of a sit down while the rest of the trio did the hard work, showing they knew their instruments inside out.  Adding his own cheeky little motifs from the sidelines, Redman maintained a playful vibe, as though the impressive pull-offs on bass and masterful use of almost every cymbal at once on the drums, really were as effortless as they looked.

Before a much applauded encore Redman concluded with the title track from his new album Back East and succumbed to an angular jive to keep up with his own expressive and truly impressive music.  

Catherine Marks