The Joshua Redman Trio--Sam Yahel on organ and Brian Blade on drums behind Redman's tenor and soprano saxes--has just released its debut album, Elastic (Warner Bros.). But in fact this is the second album in less than six months from these same three musicians; the first, recorded as a cooperatively led trio called Yaya3, was an eponymous release on Loma. Most of the younger players who revived the traditional organ trio format in the last ten years, like Larry Goldings, Joey DeFrancesco, and the trio Soulive, are influenced by the style's pioneers: the Jimmys--Smith, McGriff, and McDuff. Yaya3's cool, spare sound owes more to later models such as Lonnie Smith and especially Larry Young, whose fuzzy-logic solos Yahel emulates. This format suits Redman, who won the Thelonious Monk competition ten years ago but soon overindulged in formulaic grandstanding, developing an almost vaudevillian reliance on hoots and hollers. Yahel's crafty understatement and Blade's sharp, light rhythms provide a subtler setting than Redman's usual, and he responds with his most thoughtful and original improvisations in years; even when he reverts to formula, Yahel and Blade redeem his cliches by framing them inventively. On Elastic the trio takes a slightly more pop-oriented approach, as if Redman had been listening to Medeski Martin & Wood. Yahel plays several keyboards besides the organ (including wahwah electric piano on one tune), Blade adds some funk to the mix, and Redman uses a little studio wizardry in sensible ways; for instance, he harmonizes key passages of his solos after the fact, creating an effect reminiscent of Sonny Stitt's "electric saxophone" stuff in the mid-60s. But the album and the trio succeed mostly because of the creative tension between Redman's more heated passages and Yahel's unflappability. Sunday, October 6, 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Hannert.