LIVE: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman @ Alive at Five, 6/11/15
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Stanley Johnson, Richard Brody
Alive at Five – the City of Albany’s annual free summertime concert series – launched its 26th season on Thursday with a new spin. For the first time in recent memory – or maybe ever – Alive at Five hosted a jazz concert.
Not just any jazz concert, either, but the collaboration of two undeniable jazz stars – the maverick piano trio The Bad Plus with super saxman Joshua Redman, playing together in support of their brand new self-titled album debut. Actually, “collaboration” isn’t quite the right word because it certainly didn’t sound as though Redman was merely sitting in with The Bad Plus. The sound of the co-joined quartet was more natural, more organic than that, almost as though Redman was the long-lost fourth member returning to the fold after an exploratory journey into heretofore uncharted musical territory.
From the opening volley of bassist Reid Anderson’s “Big Eater” – the kick-off track of TBP’s 2003 album “These Are the Vistas” – Redman’s sax nestled in perfectly, while constantly pushing the envelope throughout their 75-minute set. It wasn’t easy-listening; it was music that required – no, demanded – concentration, something that’s not easy to conjure up at Albany’s premier summer people-party.
But it was the second song of the show, pianist Ethan Iverson’s “Faith Through Error,” that ripped the envelope open and tore it to shreds with a blast of dissonance and outright cacophony. Clearly this was not gonna be “Kenny G jazz.” Would the crowd stay? Somewhat surprisingly, there was no mass exodus from Jennings Landing, although the crowd – always more interested in people-watching and blowing off work-day steam than paying strict attention to the band – seemed to lose focus, drinking and chatting with each other at such a volume that even just 20 feet from the stage it was sometimes difficult to hear the band. Too bad…
Whether they were tearing through Iverson’s churning “County Seat,” Anderson’s noir-ish ballad “As This Moment Slips Away” or drummer Dave King’s exquisitely hymn-like show-closer “Beauty Has It Hard,” this was a show that deserved a more attentive audience or perhaps just a more intimate venue.
Led by saxman Jeff Nania and trombonist Bryan Brundige, Local 518 faves the Chronicles opened the show with a knock-out 45-minute set that not only spanned the stylistic gamut of jazz but also incorporated funk, soul, pop, rock and more (including an innovative reworking of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) without watering it down. This is the band you want at your next party…
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “In their opening song ‘Faith through Error,’ written by the pianist Ethan Iverson from their newest record, Iverson and Redman played far out parts that resisted any obvious melody or unified tune, setting the stage for challenging the listener. ‘As this Moment Slips Away,’ from the same album, started as smooth, melodic and, yes, accessible. But the promise, like the moment, slipped away and it became incomprehensible for the casual listener. You can’t check out during a Redman solo and expect to check back in at your leisure and know what’s going on. On the flip side, if you did the work and paid attention to his solo, you were rewarded. In the next song ‘Dirty Blonde,’ drummer David King took his first of many way out and mesmerizing solos. He seemed all over the place, but in fact, he never left the tune and it was baffling how the group came in at the same moment without an obvious drum cue from King.”