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Joshua Redman; Photos courtesy of The Royal Conservator of Music; Lisa Sakulensky

So how to describe this concert?  I could say that they played a few numbers from the Old and New Dreams catalog, including Guinea by Cherry and Walls & Bridges by Dewey Redman.  Most of the set consisted of selections from their recent CD entitled Still Dreaming, including The Rest, It’s Not the Same and Unanimity by Redman, as well as New Year and Haze and Aspirations by Colley. I could talk about how each musician displayed virtuoso skills on their instruments and yet communicated intensely with one another, each member knowing exactly what they were doing at all times.  I could say that this was incredibly complex music that needed to be notated, charted, learned and practised (indeed, each of them had music stands and charts). This was particularly evident on numerous passages featuring sax and cornet playing either in unison or close harmony at high speed with great precision and accuracy. At the same time, one could appreciate how the band took the art of improvisation to an uncharted level of creativity and imagination.  I could talk about Redman’s rich and sonorous tenor tone and how it was beautifully complimented by the soft timbre of Miles’ cornet, an instrument that one does not often hear in jazz combos. I could talk about the exquisite and haunting melody motifs and fragments that often opened a piece and how those motifs were reimagined as part of an ever-expanding sonic experiment. I could talk about how the smile never left drummer Blade’s face the entire evening.

Joshua Redman; Photos  courtesy of The Royal Conservator of Music; Lisa Sakulensky

But what I really want to talk about is the overall experience of being immersed in sounds that our ears are not necessarily accustomed to hearing, unless we are die-hard fans of what is popularly referred to as free-form jazz.  What struck me about this band’s music was the energy conveyed and how that energy ebbed and flowed.  I would not call it soulful, but it welled up deep from the souls of these musicians. The unaccustomed ear might consider this music to be unstructured, but for the first time in my experience, I sensed a controlling structure to the music that was like a dynamic beach around a lake – the beach is always there but it changes, mutates, reshapes itself by the minute in response to the action of wave energy.  The music was the wave energy driving that dynamism, sometimes placid and calm, sometimes turbulent and aggressive, with rogue waves appearing out of nowhere – music raw and visceral. This is not theme and variation; rather it is ideas and re-imaginings. It was our pleasure as listeners to sit back and let these aural waves wash over us, as one might enjoy watching the waves of Lake Ontario roll in to shore. I believe the audience was spellbound in this way, and the spell was only broken by their enthusiastic responses to each piece.

Obviously a basketball fan, and a fan of the Golden State Warriors, Redman wished all the Raptors fans well and hoped to see them in the finals.  One hopes that we will get to see and hear Joshua Redman again in the near future.

Joshua Redman with Scott Colley, Brian Blad and Ron Miles
​Photos courtesy of The Royal Conservator of Music; Lisa Sakulensky

Koerner Hall’s10th Anniversary Season, sponsored by BMO Financial and the Toronto Star, continued on Saturday, November 10th with the first concert in the TD Jazz series, featuring Still Dreaming, a quartet made up of Joshua Redman, tenor sax, Ron Miles, cornet, Scott Colley, bass and Brian Blade, drums. As Redman put it, this group is a sort of “tribute tribute band”, as it honours a band called Old and New Dreams that consisted of his father, Dewey Redman, renowned bassist Charlie Haden, trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Ed Blackwell, all of whom had been close friends and collaborators with the legendary Ornette Coleman and who had come together in the 70s to honour his acoustic musical legacy of free form or avant-garde jazz.  As host Mervon Mehta stated, this was not going to be a night of straight ahead, big band style jazz, and both he and Redmond said that “it was a testament to the great jazz fans in Toronto” that Koerner Hall was packed for this concert. The articulate Redman joked that perhaps some people “hadn’t got the memo” about what to expect, but I saw only two people leave the hour-and-a-half-long concert mid-way through.  The concert was dedicated to the memory of trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who had passed away recently at the age of 49 – ironically, the same age as Redman himself, and someone whom all the members of Still Dreaming had played with often.

Still Dreaming, with Joshua Redman 

Joshua Redman; Photo courtesy of The Royal Conservator of Music; Lisa Sakulensky

​​Review by Jeff Mitchell
Toronto ON November 11th 2018