Dewey Redman, Bates Recital Hall, October 6
Bates Recital Hall, October 6 "Hello," said Dewey Redman. "Hello!" responded the 700-plus chorus. "This is really a big thrill for me, because I was a schoolteacher in Bastrop, and on weekends I'd come to Austin and play," recalled the 68-year-old free-jazz legend. "And everyone -- well, not everyone -- would say, 'Hey, you're pretty good. You should go to New York.' Five years later I did." Some 32 years after that, the Lone Star State's loss is still the jazz capital of the world's rightful gain, but oh how sweet the reunion. "I still love Texas -- I'm a Texan, you know," quipped the Fort Worth native just before his quartet began the first of the evening's two sets. Nor did it take long for the tenor saxophonist to demonstrate what the sold-out house was in for, finishing his first number with a brief flourish as effortless as it was dazzling -- like five decades' worth of experience in a casual aside. Following with "I Should Care," a standard ballad, Redman found his tone, a tone modern jazzmen can't learn in school, a tone echoing through the hall like a back-alley saxophone in a detective noir. As was the case all evening, Redman's turn in the spotlight was followed by solos of equal and sometimes greater ability, most notably those by pianist Charles Eubanks, whose lyrical, probing passages summoned a Keith Jarrett-like single-note denseness that continually collapsed upon itself like a house of cards. Bassist John Menagon and Reggie Nicholson on drums held down their end of the bargain in a manner that would have made Redman's bandmates in Old & New Dreams, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell, nod approvingly. More sax magic issued forth from Redman, some as handsome as Bates' hardwood interior, some as outspoken and outside as Redman's yellow outfit. Always, the bookended intros and outros of each song crowned the quartet's achievements. After a 55-minute first set, Redman and company returned for the second with a tease of "The Eyes of Texas," and from that point forward, the blowing never let up. Brandishing his trademark Moroccan recorder, the musette, Redman snake-charmed his way through the second set's centerpiece, which featured Menagon's deep, droning bass bowing, Nicholson's war toms, and the evening's main attraction scatting a Middle Eastern-sounding admonishment as if from an indignant monarch. Some comfortable, well-worn blues ended the 40-minute second half, Redman entreating the audience to "give it up" before venturing up the aisles to blow his message more directly (imagine having his horn not 12 inches from your nose), while the entire house clapped like it was a revival meeting. It might as well have been. When Redman ended the evening with a smooth ride up to Harlem on "Take the A Train," the only appropriate response to an evening with this masterful Texas tenor was to thank the Good Lord.
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