You, me, the music, and me.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Verve 559 944-2 (1999)

Tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman's passing last Saturday at age 75 due to liver failure marked the end of a brilliant life and career in jazz and improvised music. In addition to his own recordings and performances as a leader, he worked with such greats as Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Carla Bley, and Charlie Haden. For his final recording under his own name, Redman entered the studio with pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Elvin Jones, where they produced a compelling set of solos, duos, and trios.

"Nine" opens the album with Redman firing off an ascending nine-note whole tone riff as Jones and Taylor plunge in behind him for nearly eleven minutes of free form frenzy. Redman and Jones lead the charge while Taylor pokes in and around the edges and spaces, alternating high-note sweeps and trills with pounding bass octaves. The absence of a bass player gives the group's sound a feeling of both weight and weightlessness; it opens the sound up, creating more space for these powerhouses to fill. "Bekei" is a brief drum solo in which Jones eschews the tradition of showing off one's percussive chops in favour of creating a slow, rhythmic build. "Spoonin'" is a bluesy sparring match between Redman and Jones which features another, more active drum solo.

Judging by their titles and instrumentation, the next three tracks seem to form a kind of suite. "Life as" is a meditative, quietly roiling solo performance by Taylor that leads into "It", a fiery duet in which Jones' drums coerce Taylor into his trademark percussive style. This culminates in the twenty-minute "Is", in which all three players manage to play in their respective, highly distinct styles while meshing into a cohesive whole. The album closes with the forty-nine-second "Dew", a brief solo blast from Redman that concludes the formidable career of a great artist.


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