‘The Bad Plus Joshua Redman’ + Kneebody at the Montreal International Jazz Festival

The collaboration between Joshua Redman (sax), Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano), and David King (drums) is one of the most musically successful enterprises in recent memory. The band has been touring together on and off since recording The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch) and played to a nearly sold-out crowd Sunday, June 28 at the historic Theatre Maisonneuve as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The group gave a truly inspiring performance of selections taken entirely from the studio recording, which features compositions from everyone in the band. It was especially interesting to watch the interactions between various members of the group, whether it was Redman cheering on Iverson during a particularly moving melodic part of a piano solo or the musical exchanges between Redman and King, which elicited a lot of the excitement throughout the set.

The set itself was well thought out and, as it progressed, gave the impression that change was taking place within the ensemble. They seemed to become something new, growing as an ensemble right before our eyes. Redman exuded emotion from beginning to end. His ability to communicate feeling through simple melodic material continues to be his most impressive quality. Most striking was his treatment of two repeated notes that made up the entire coda section of King’s “Beauty Has it Hard”. Redman’s melodic sensibilities within his improvisations were refreshing as well and I couldn’t help but feel the presence of Ornette Coleman on “The Mending”, a Redman original. (So much so, in fact, that I wonder if the group decided ahead of time to pay tribute to the free jazz innovator with this tune.) The group grew in strength and intensity as they progressed through the set with other selections from the recording including “Big Eater”, “As This Moment Slips Away”, and “Lack the Faith but Not the Wine”.

The performance closed with Anderson’s remarkable “Silence is the Question”, a crowd favourite for good reason. The piece began with a beautifully played bass introduction, open piano chords and tenor holding soft long tones at the top of its natural register, which produced an angelic, ethereal effect. “Silence” then continued along its steadfast trajectory of intensity towards a climax of ferocity well beyond anything the group had played previously. The standing ovation that followed elicited a quick version of “Dirty Blonde”, which seemed to appease the ever encore-hungry Montreal Festival crowd.

The guys in Kneebody have been touring with The Bad Plus and Josh Redman for the past week and opened the evening with a jaw dropping set of their own. The obvious standout in this group and perhaps the next tenor saxophone sensation to emerge from the New York scene is Vancouver-born Ben Wendel. I love the group but found it difficult to enjoy their performance completely due to the poor sound. Hey, sound technicians: is there some unwritten rule that states that opening acts need to sound like they are inside a massive airport hangar or empty beer vat? Next time I hear this band I hope to hear the soloists over the rhythm section! The sound improved considerably for the main act but this kind of oversight really wasn’t fair for the Kneebody guys who really played their asses off. The group played tunes primarily from their recent album The Line (Concord Jazz) including “Still Play”, on which Wendel shows off his circular breathing technique in addition to everything else he does so incredibly well.

04 East Sussex, GBR — Love Supreme Jazz Festival
04 Penedes, ESP — Banco Sabadell Vijazz Penedes
05 Paris, FRA — Esplanade de la Defense
06 Copenhagen, DNK — Kulturhuset Islands Brygge
07 Stuttgart, DEU — Jazz Open
08 Mannheim, DEU — Enjoy Jazz Summer
10 Istanbul, TUR — Istanbul Jazz Festival
11 Rotterdam, NDL — North Sea Jazz Festival
13 Umbria, ITA — Umbria Jazz Festival
14 Montreux, CHE — Molde Jazz
16 Molde, NOR — Heineken Jazzaldia
18 Alicante, ESP — Fijazz Festival
20 Albinea, ITA — Villa Arno
22 Langnau, CHE — Langnau Jazz Nights
24 Fano, ITA — Corte Malatestiana
25 San Sebastian, ESP — Jazzaldia
27 Marciac, FRA — Chapiteau de Marciac

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman is available on Nonesuch Records.