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Jazz Spotlight

August 06, 1995|Don Heckman

KENNY GARRETT, JOSHUA REDMAN, WALLACE RONEY, LARRY GOLDINGS, others

"Warner Jams, Vol. 1"

Warner Bros.

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Jam sessions are among the most cherished traditions of jazz. As a learning situation, in which young players have the opportunity to measure themselves against experienced performers, they can prove invaluable. And, as summit meetings between prominent players, jam sessions have provided a long history of exciting, spontaneous improvisational encounters.

In recent years, however, as jazz artists have entered the complex financial world of record contracts, royalties and managerial manipulation, the number of loose, open jams featuring major names has dramatically diminished. Which makes this stellar gathering of young lions Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney, Larry Goldings, Brad Mehldau, Peter Bernstein, Clarence Seay and Brian Blade especially welcome.

Admittedly, the format is substantially more structured than one might hear in a stretched out, open-ended jam. But there are plenty of openings for interaction, and each of the five major performers (Redman, Garrett, Roney, Goldings and Mehldau), all of whom are now signed to Warner Bros., has a chance to thoroughly demonstrate his individual wares.

There are high points galore. Among them: Garrett's sensual rendering of "Killing Me Softly" and crisp drive on "Switch Blade"; Roney's playing almost everywhere, and especially in a double-time excursion on "The Sidewinder" and a romp through "Larry Young"; Redman's growingly mature soloing on the same tunes, as well as a surging, but beautifully crafted chorus on "Switch Blade"; Mehldau's two-handed pianistics on his own piece, "Nice Pass," and Goldings' capacity to bring a formidable sense of swing to every note he plays.

Warner Bros. has made a misstep in not clearly identifying this album as the potent, all-star jam that it is, rather than--as one might suspect from the cover--as a sampler of their current roster. But all will be forgiven if the "Vol. 1" labeling actually means there will be further editions of similarly high-level get-togethers.

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

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