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June 2006

SFJAZZ Collective
SFJAZZ Collective 2
Nonesuch Records

All-star groups tend to amount to less than the sum of their parts. Not so with the San Francisco-based SFJAZZ Collective, whose second album, recorded on tour, comprises four originals and four John Coltrane tunes. SFJAZZ—whose lineup boasts vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, pianist Renee Rosnes and its leader, saxophonist Joshua Redman—plays with urgency and innovation, putting a fresh face on important works and introducing some new pieces. Drummer Eric Harland must be given his due: He’s fabulous right from the get-go, turning in explosive work on “Moment’s Notice,” while Payton and then trombonist Isaac Smith solo nicely.

The sweet “Naima” becomes a vehicle for Hutcherson’s vibes, and he gives it his all starting with a tender solo that grows more and more complex. “Crescent,” one of the loveliest tunes in all of jazz, is given a respectful, dramatic reading, and “Africa” is faithful and charged with emotion.

The original tunes are equally enjoyable. Payton gives a standout solo on his own jaunty “Scrambled Eggs” as Rosnes’ piano rumbles and sparkles. Redman’s soft, rounded tone shines on “Half Full”—an upbeat, optimistic tune that presumably refers to a half-empty glass—and the group takes Miguel Zenon’s complex “2 and 2” to unpredictable places. Harland’s “Development,” which begins with group chanting, is all bright and happy jazz, and it ends the record on an uplifting note. This, in fact, seems to be the mission of the SFJAZZ Collective: to lift our spirits. Mission accomplished.

Originally published in June 2006
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