Trying to strive to become a better true musician has always been my goal as a jazz artist. I am continuously searching to how I can approach jazz and improvisation whether it be through looking at it from a different perspective or trying to view it from a more abstract understanding. The question that seems to question many musicians is how do we develop our own perspective and own style. As a musician who does not focus solely on the technical aspect of my playing, I find developing my own style and approach to jazz has been influenced by studying how other people perceive music. Two months ago, Joshua Redman, the 2011 artist-in-residence for the Monterey Jazz Festival, gave a clinic at the annual Next Generation Jazz Festival—a jazz festival that gathers the top junior high school, high school, and college big band, combos, and vocal ensembles from around the world to play and compete. Since 2004, this festival has brought musicians like Dianna Reeves, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra, Christian Mcbride, Terence Blanchard, Kurt Elling, Branford Marsalis, and Regina Carter. As an artist-in-residence, Redman will act as a clinician, mentor, and featured performer at the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival. He will also perform with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra—an auditioned ensemble consisting of the top high school musicians—in September.
Last week, I posted a list compiling the recent/upcoming 2011 album releases. Among these album-releasing artists were the collaboration group James Farm comprised of saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland. This collective ensemble combines a unique blend of different styles like rock, soul, folk, classical, and electronica. Although this quartet does not resemble the traditional “jazz” image, James Farm epitomizes the ever growing, myriad diversity in jazz. Exploring the chemistry between Redman’s free blowing rhythmic playing, Park’s melodically rich improvisation, Penman’s firm grasp of the groove, and Harland’s emotional ornamented vocabulary on the drums, makes this ensemble true connoisseurs in combining traditional ideals with progressive approaches. Penman conceptualizes this band saying, “James Farm is where we pool our collective knowledge, let run the best of our ideas arising from our varied musical influences, while acknowledging substantial common ground—a love of jazz, a fascination with song and structure, an obsession with groove, and a receptivity to contemporary influences. A band where we can be creative composers and improvisers, in step with the rhythm of the times, constantly evolving.”
The idea for this band was introduced by Joshua Redman, an 11 album talented California rooted horn player who is always looking for new innovative ways to reinvent the traditional configuration of jazz groups. (With his latest introduction of a double trio band, Redman has risen as one of the leading musicians in his generation. ) James Farm was a result of Joshua Redman’s vision to play with another upcoming pianist, Aaron Parks. After seeing his trio play, Redman was inspired to gather a group that highlighted Parks natural ability to seamlessly integrate elements of rock and even electronic music into what he does as an acoustic pianist. It was not long after that Joshua Redman called bassist Matt Penman, a high-in-demand bassist, and Eric Harland, a soulful organic musician, who are both currently in the SF Jazz Collective. Although Joshua Redman had played with these artists before, James Farm was the first band where they all played together in that particular arrangement. Redman says, “I really felt like there was an opportunity to do something a little bit different and a little bit special with this band, particularly because of the strength of the musical personalities and also because the strength of everyone, not just as individual improvisers, but as composers and musicians who also had a vision for being part of a band and for helping to organize a band.”
Now, this group offers more than a modern sound and a new approach to the every transforming art form called jazz. This group has successfully defied the normal conception of jazz composition and communication between each player. Although I question some of the musical approaches taken by this group—the interesting pairing of incoherent styles—it nonetheless avoids the common criticism and misconstrued understanding that most people associate with jazz. In fact, I find myself more intrigued and motivated to listen to this group with a clear mind. James Farm has taken the “overused-jazz-quartet-sound” and has transcended it to become original, new, and purposeful.
In this video of the James Farm band playing, it is apparent that each musician is emotionally, melodically, and rhythmically in tune with each other. Fluid and focused to carry a collective momentum within the piece, each player—especially Joshua Redman and Eric Harland—adds their own stylization to the piece without ruining the overall harmonious ensemble sound. It is because of this unique nature that James Farm has grown and evolved into one of the leading, highly acclaimed quartets in this new generation of jazz.
After off-and-on touring around the world and various announcements explaining their plans to record, Nonesuch has officially announced, today, the release date of their upcoming highly anticipated first self-titled debut album. James Farm will be released on April 26, 2011 followed by an international tour. Below is a track list of the songs that will be included in this release as well as the itinerary of the upcoming performances.
1. Coax (Matt Penman)
2. Polliwog (Joshua Redman)
3. Bijou (Aaron Parks)
4. Chronos (Aaron Parks)
5. Star Crossed (Joshua Redman)
6. 1981 (Matt Penman)
7. I-10 (Eric Harland)
8. Unravel (Aaron Parks)
9. If By Air (Joshua Redman)
10. Low Fives (Matt Penman)
Shows & Events
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These are some of the solos that I feel standout.
Joshua Redman vs James Carter Live At Carnegie Hall
I chose this video because it really highlights both players in a unique way. After each saxophonist takes a solo, they come together trading choruses in which later turns into a saxophone battle. Joshua Redman and James Carter both play brilliantly together. You can really hear both musicians listening and playing off each other. Towards the end, the band drops out and the two saxophonists carry the rhythm and energy effortlessly. This is where the unique creativity of both musicians explode. I feel that these moments are what jazz musicians strive for and what jazz listeners really enjoy.
Joe Lovano and Miguel Zenon on “Union”
This is another magical moment where Joe Lovano and Miguel Zenon battle off on a song called “Union”. In this song, there is a saxophone break where Lovano and Zenon play off each other. Lovano starts off with a catchy rhythmic phrase in which is later accompanied by Zenon with a counter rhythmic melody. After about a minute, Lovano and Zenon begin to break away and play more freely. This amazes me because each player keeps a sense of time. Towards the end, there is a part where Joe Lovano and Miguel Zenon end their phrases at the same time, starting back again with that catchy rhythmic melody.
Jacques Scwarzbart on “Forget Regret”
Now I know this solo may cause some people’s ears to bleed but I find a certain charm in Jacques Scwarzbart’s playing. Starting off with a couple of ideas, Scwarzbart plays very sparingly. After about a minute, he begins to build up the energy by adding harmonic runs and chromatic lines. It later turns into an energy powerhouse as Scwarzbart enters into his altissimo range. I find this extremely musical in a unique way. I enjoy when musicians can tell a story when they play. A story that starts off with low energy and builds to a climactic point where the energy reaches to its greatest potential.
Joshua Redman on Kurt Rosenwinkel’s composition “The Next Step”
This is another solo by Joshua Redman that really stands out to me. After the long guitar solo, Joshua Redman enters with a simple idea that he builds off from. This really highlights Redman’s ability to play the full range of his horn. Jumping from high to low, he shows a different style than he normally is found playing. I love how he approaches this solo with a unique harmonic and melodic perspective.
If you found another saxophone solo in which you feel really stands out on youtube, comment on this post. Make sure to include the video link and why you think it is unique.