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JAZZ REVIEW

Electrifying set from the Redman trio

September 11, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Saxophonist Joshua Redman's performance Tuesday night at Catalina Bar & Grill raised an intriguing question: What would happen if a panoply of contemporary electronic instruments were placed in the hands of jazz musicians?

It's no mystery that samplers, sequencers and rhythm machines can produce remarkable results in the hands of performers with minimal musical skills. Would artists such as Redman, keyboardist Sam Yahel and drummer Jeff Ballard find something richer, deeper, darker?

The answer is yes. Starting with "One More Once," which shifted sneakily from 5/4 to 6/4 meter, the trio hit the ground running, playing at seemingly full inspiration from Note One.

Redman's soloing here, as well as on pieces such as "Mantra No. 5" and "Sweet and Nasty," was the product of an inventive mind, funneled through the articulate technique of a virtuosic instrumentalist. Employing sequential passages as an essential element in his improvisations, he brought a compositional-like approach to each solo, pulling listeners with him as he shaped and developed his musical ideas.

All this was made possible by the extraordinary interaction with Yahel and Ballard. Musical subtleties abounded, with ideas tossed back and forth between Redman and Yahel, while Ballard produced an explosive rhythmic drive.

When Yahel, after starting on the Hammond B3 electric organ, moved to a Fender Rhodes electric piano and an array of synthesizers, the music emphasized driving grooves. But even when Redman added tone-altering electronics to his own playing, the music's essential contact with jazz remained. Talented players, after all, make fine music -- electronic or acoustic, groove or straight-ahead.

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