JOSHUA REDMAN ELASTIC BAND
ELECTRIC OR acoustic? Music rooted in soul-jazz and funk or perhaps something more cerebral and adventurous -- say, a conceptual all-star album devoted in part to compositions by Ornette Coleman? Saxophonist Joshua Redman's latest releases offer listeners choices.
"Momentum," the sophomore album by Redman's Elastic Band, is arguably his most accessible recording yet, thanks to the tune choices (Sheryl Crow's "Riverwide" and Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge" make the cut) and the expanded lineup (guests include bassists Flea and Meshell Ndegeocello, vibist Stefon Harris, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and Roots drummer ?uestlove). But more engaging than anything else is the kinetic interplay that develops when Redman, keyboardist Sam Yahel and rotating drummers Jeff Ballard and Brian Blade bear down on "Sweet Nasty," "Shut Your Mouth," "Double Jeopardy" and other funk-driven excursions. Despite superfluous electronic shadings, "Momentum" keeps the retro-tinted lulls at bay by emphasizing the Elastic Band's sharply syncopated attack and groove-happy chemistry.
While "Momentum" briefly alludes to Redman's affection for the music of Coleman, via a full-throated tenor sax reprise of "Lonely Woman," three Coleman compositions turn up on the SFJazz Collective's adventurous self-titled debut, recorded during several live performances last year. Redman serves as the artistic director of the octet, but the group projects a leaderless sound onstage, with the focus often shifting from intricate ensemble work to individual showcases. In addition to Redman and drummer Blade, the top-notch lineup features vibes great Bobby Hutcherson, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, trombonist Josh Roseman, pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Robert Hurst. The Coleman tunes -- "Peace," "When Will the Blues Leave" and "Una Muy Bonita" -- sport fresh arrangements by Gil Goldstein with some intriguing twists. The remaining four compositions, penned by ensemble members, offer everything from a spiritual incantation (Redman's "Rise and Fall") and a vibrant swing sprint (Rosnes's "Of This Day's Journey") to a wonderfully animated finale (Hutcherson's "March Madness").
-- Mike Joyce
Joshua Redman Elastic Band appearing Friday through Sunday at Blues Alley.