REVIEW: James Farm, highlight of Day 1 at Natt Jazz

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Wednesday June 01, 2011


NattJazz@Bergen ‘” Joshua Redman, Jenny Hval and ‘¦. Cornershop
By: Laurence Mackin

The highlight of day one (and some might even have said of the festival) was one of the earliest acts to take to a stage in Natt Jazz. The name James Farm might not mean a huge amount to most people, but this is a band with breadth and depth in spades, led by Joshua Redman, who is setting himself up as one of the finest saxophonists of his generation.

This was slick and classy affair. There’s a lot of free and experimental jazz at NattJazz, and this band’s crafted, accessible songwriting is a strong contrast to some of the more out there sounds in Bergen. I have heard some people question Redman’s tone, but when he opens it up there are few that are better in the business. He takes an almost boxer’s stance at the mic, pulling and popping his frame as he jabs notes out, percussive slaps punctuating his complex, creative rhythmic approach to his instrument. Then the band will turn it on the head and go for more ballad-like numbers while Redman draws long, slow mournful notes out of the bell of his horn, providing entire fields of colour and breaking hearts all around the room.

It’s no harm that Redman is just one cog in what is something of a jazz supergroup. Aaron Parks might be only 27 but his piano lines are sparkling, complicated affairs, full of drama and gravitas, and with a decent bolt of bluesy-ness when the band around him decide to start to cooking it a little. Matt Penman pins things together with subtle bass grooves that create plenty of space for Eric Harland to exploit. Harland is a bewildering drummer to watch, and leaves audience members wondering what he is doing and how he is doing it. His techniques and ability are astonishing, and he almost threatens to steal the show out from under Redman. With this band’s ability at full throttle, the show is irresistible.

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