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Contemporary Traditionalists Print
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Contemporary Traditionalists
2. Joshua Redman and Mark Turner.
3. Branford Marsalis.
4. Chris Potter and Coda.

Joshua Redman.

imgAnother important saxophonist to emerge in the 1990s was Joshua Redman, a Harvard-educated son of 'Texas Tenor' Dewey Redman.   Joshua (b. 1969) toured briefly with his father in 1990-91 before winning in 1991 the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition for young musicians, which helped jump-start his career as a leader.

Principally a tenorist, Redman also plays alto and soprano.   He possesses a phenomenal technique, although his regular forays into the altissimo register are sometimes overdone, at the expense of the deeper, broader sound he achieves in the normal range.   Like his father, Redman produces a full, bright sound reminiscent of Coleman Hawkins or Dexter Gordon.   As an extremely emotive player he often plays extended versions of pieces, bringing out the dramatic side of the music and providing excitement for audiences.

Redman's recorded output features a wide variety of material and musical companions.   'Wish' (1993) has him with Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins (not the first Redman to record with these two) and features music by Metheny, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton.   A tour featuring that group followed the album's release.   'Timeless Tales (For Changing Times)' (1998) was probably his most remarkable release during his early recording period.   It's a collection of popular tunes, old and new, joined by connecting interludes.   The supporting cast consists of Brad Meldau (piano), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jorge Rossy (drums).   Distinctive treatments of classics such as Summertime, Yesterdays and How Deep Is The Ocean are integrated with more recent songs like Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' and Stevie Wonder's Visions in a seamless production.

Redman has played duets with other tenor saxophonists, but without the traditional view of such meetings as battles or contests (as were the Kansas City 'cutting sessions' of the 1930s).   Leap Of Faith from 'Beyond' (1999) is a Redman composition that also features tenor saxophonist Mark Turner.   Redman said, 'We transcend the classic tenor-battle mode when we play together.   It's not about competition.   It's about communication.   Everything on this track happened organically.   We had no preconceived ideas and this was a first take.'   Redman guested on Joe Lovano's 'Tenor Legacy' (1994) with similarly cordial results.

Mark Turner.

Mark Turner (b. 1965) is a contemporary of Redman's but a distinctively different player - although he does have an equally blinding control of the high register.   Raised in California, Turner studied at the Berklee School Of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, in the late 1980s, befriending Redman at that time.   Redman recalled, 'We came up playing together.   Over the years I've probably learned more from him than from any of my other peers.'

imgTurner is one of the few - perhaps the only - modern saxophonist today to incorporate the linear fluidity of the great Warne Marsh with the more robust sounds of Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano.   Marsh is an overlooked tenor saxophonist whose best-known work was with Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz; he was an innovative stylist in his own right.

Marsh's ease in seamlessly negotiating a four-octave range while emphasising the smooth trajectory of the melodic line has clearly left a lasting mark on Turner.   Turner's blending of Marsh's relentless linearity and the slightly harder, robust tone with a distinctively more modern edge has brought together old and new in a highly individual way.   A good example of this is Turner's rendering of Victor Feldman's ballad Falling In Love on Tana Reid's 'Looking Forward' (1994).   While his tone maintains an open, airy intensity, his nimble-fingered negotiation of the harmony sets up a tension in this reflective piece that results in an eloquent interpretation.

Turner's early CDs for Warner Brothers – 'Mark Turner' (1997), 'In This World' (1998) and 'Ballad Session' (1999) - are some of the best examples of his recorded work.   'In This World' is particularly interesting for its inclusion of Lennie Groove, a melodically linear Turner composition that pays tribute to both Tristano and Marsh.   His treatment of Henry Mancini's The Days Of Wine And Roses is compelling in its unusually spirited tempo and the key-change in the second half of the tune.   The album also features creative Fender­Rhodes piano playing by Brad Meldau, leaning on that instrument's introduction to jazz in the early 1970s.

Turner's voice is still developing in some ways, but he provides an important benchmark for the role of the saxophone in jazz.   His clear acknowledgement of the contributions of past innovators is combined with a special ability to fuse that with today's music, giving renewed hope for the future of the art. 'next', at right, to read on.....

Jazzorg Note:   The following links connect you to the pages, which make samples of the above albums available for listening.   The pages are shown in a separate window which you may close to return to this article.

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