Joshua Redman Elastic BAND performing as part of the Downtown Jazz Festival at Nathan Phillips Square, Friday (June 27), 8:30 pm. $27.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
shock! horror! outrage! the latest organ trio project of saxophonist Joshua Redman is causing a stir in the jazz world. Not that his recent Elastic (Warner) disc is that wildly revolutionary. In fact, it sounds very much like a continuation of the electrifying experiments progressive-minded Hammond B-3 hotshot Larry Young was involved in some 30 years ago.
And it can't be Redman's move to an organ trio set-up that's causing a ruckus, since a few months prior to Elastic's release he put out a conceptually similar CD, also with bandmates Sam Yahel and drummer Brian Blade (who's now replaced by Jeff Ballard) under the name Yaya3 that only inspired shrugs.
More than the groove-oriented nature of the compositions on Elastic, it's the electric component - chiefly Yahel's Yamaha CS15D and Korg MS 2000 keyboards - that upset the more conservative sector of the jazz community.
They thought the future of acoustic jazz was in good hands with Redman, whose impressive chops, GQ looks and affability made him the ultimate trad jazz poster child.
The gifted son of jazz adventurer Dewey Redman was seen as a more pleasant, forward-looking alternative to the conservationist radicalism of Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at the Lincoln Centre axis, who believe jazz died in the 60s and prefer to preserve it as it was.
If anyone could bridge the enormous gap between the experimental and the elevator jazz factions, Redman was best positioned to make it happen. So it's understandable that some people would find it worrisome to hear him dabbling on the dark side with, heaven forbid, synthesizers.
"I'm aware that there are people who haven't taken kindly to it," says Redman. "Some people in the jazz community categorically reject anything that isn't entirely acoustic or swing-based. If they hear a groove or an electric instrument, they immediately assume it must be lesser jazz. Whatever."
While the funkier sound of Elastic might seem like an odd turn for Redman, who's been trying to establish a mainstream foothold over the past few years by recording romance ballads that go down well on soft jazz radio, he insists that the detour into the groove was a natural progression for someone who grew up in a hiphop world.
"Hiphop, funk and R&B music are part of our generation. It's the sound we grew up with, and that's why a lot of jazz musicians of my generation are open to incorporating those ideas into what they're doing as jazz artists.
"Roy Hargrove is one of the most soulful and exciting musicians on the scene. I think his new RH Factor (Verve) recording is really good, but it's much more of a straight-up R&B/funk thing than what we're doing. He's using musicians from that world and the whole aesthetic, which is a big difference.
"It's still important to maintain a jazz sense of interactivity, fluidity and openness in my music which is why I've done a record like Elastic and why I'm playing with musicians who are basically acoustic jazz players. We're just moving into a different territory."