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JAZZ SPOTLIGHT : Pop Redman Outdoes Son

October 02, 1994|Don Heckman

Jazz, with a few exceptions, has never been much of an arena for father-and-son acts. Tenor saxophonists Dewey and Joshua Redman are among the rare contemporary examples, and these two new albums--which include both individual and tandem performances--provide a fascinating opportunity for a generational view of the improvisational art.

DEWEY REDMAN

"African Venus"

Evidence Music

* * 1/2

The uniquely loose-and-easy style that the elder Redman brought to his 1960s association with Ornette Coleman (and in the '80s to Old and New Dreams) persists in his still-provocative playing.

His highly personal approach to melody, most noticeably apparent in his solos on "Echo Prayer" and "Take the 'A' Train," results in a slippery liquid line that spreads around the rhythm--almost, but not quite, threatening to throw off the meter. The technique is more vocal than instrumental, and extends (on the title track) into a lengthy chorus on an African double-reed woodwind and a subsequent passage that might best be described as scat singing in tongues.

Joshua Redman joins the band for three tunes. The younger player's line is more precise, more to the point and far busier than that of his father--a clear juxtaposition of the differences between the probing, find-your-own-way improvising of the '60s and the rapid-fire, rush-to-judgment, fill-in-all-the-gaps styles of the '90s.

JOSHUA REDMAN

"MoodSwing "

Warner Bros.

* *

Superlative jazz improvisation--whether the consequence of a lucky gene pool, sheer natural ability or hard work (and maybe all three)--is something that Joshua Redman does with exceeding ease.

Perhaps too much ease. Make no mistake about it, this is excellent music (despite a too-heavy dose of soul jazz tunes), especially in those moments in which Redman is exchanging licks with gifted bassist Christian McBride.

But Redman, at this stage in his career, is more easily identified by the extraordinary rapidity of his articulation and an encyclopedic ability to pull an array of styles and eras into his solos (a bit of hard bop here, some Rollins or Coltrane runs there, a twist of avant-garde to button things off) than by the uniqueness of his imagination.

Unlike his father, however, who doesn't play remarkably fast, nor with a particularly wide stylistic range, Redman has not yet managed to create a singular presence for himself. A potential monster talent, he needs to worry less about stretching his technical envelope and spend more time looking into the heart of his music.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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