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Cadenza: Goin’ Down South

Sometimes you have to leave home to find yourself most at home. My recent trip to Brazil, culminating with the sixth annual Festival Tudo é Jazz in Ouro Preto (Sept. 13-16), provided a too brief but intense immersion in the marvels of Brazilian jazz, yet, in truth, the most unforgettable set was provided by homeboy Joshua Redman, leading a trio through selections from his Back East repertory. That album, released in April, is one of Redman’s best, and last summer he gave a bold account of it at Town Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. Yet his performance at Ouro Preto was on another level-the kind you live for because it not only exceeds but upends expectations.

My experience with Redman, in the 16 years since he won the Thelonious Monk competition, has been somewhat binary: occasions when he gives himself up to electrifying improvisations and interchanges with the members of his band; and occasions when he is so absorbed in his fastidious arrangements that he seems boxed by them. With the first notes of “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” the air in the main auditorium, Salão Diamantina, crackled: This would be an instance of the former, an inspired blowout, and two contributing factors were instantly evident.

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Originally Published

Gary Giddins

Gary Giddins is the author of 12 books, including Rhythm-a-Ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation (1985), Visions of Jazz: The First Century (1998), Weather Bird (2004), and the three-volume biography Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star, of which two volumes have been published to date. Between 1974 and 2003, he wrote a regular jazz column for The Village Voice, winning six ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music criticism. From 2002 to 2008, he wrote JazzTimes‘ Cadenza column.