Monday, October 10, 2005

da Noise.

Tonight, Joshua Redman and the Elastic Band came to town. It turns out that Salt Lake, for being a town with the kind of nightlife that inspires some NBA players to turn up their noses, that caused sportswriters everywhere to groan when the All-Star Game was held here, has a great jazz series, and tonight was one of the greatest of all concerts.

The scene is definitely anchored mostly by middle-aged white folks, supplemented by younger mostly white folks. There's a fair amount of "cat" behavior--you know, the jazz head bob with the eyes closed, a little motion to the backbeat. One of the major sponsors/underwriters, Gordon, who runs a pharmacy and apparently nurses a serious jones for jazz, sits in the front row, swaying from side to side. I'd have to laugh if I weren't so darned grateful that he and a few others make the whole thing possible.

Anyhow, my friend Clifton, who's a fine saxophonist in his own right, has never been able to make the Joshua Redman dates; I promised a full account, so here it is:

Set list:

The Gauntlet (composer, Sam Yahel, who played keyboards--mostly Hammond organ)
[tune so new it has no name, also composed by Sam Yahel)
Greasy G (composer, Joshua Redman)
News from the Front (composer, Joshua Redman)
[unnamed standard--ballad]
Is This My Sound Around Me? (composed by Bobby Hutchinson, the vibraphonist)
Sweet Nasty (composer, Joshua Redman)
Encore: Unnamed Blues (requested by side-to-side-swaying Gordon)

The drummer, a fantastically inventive player, was Greg Hutchinson. All players: virtuosic, with a seamless ensemble. The Hammond organ as played by Yahel got a kind of bubbling, percolating sound going that worked beautifully through most of the pieces--the sound felt like some effervescent mixture of lounge, 70s funk, electronica, a little Moog action. Occasionally he switched to another bank of keyboards and got all kinds of other cool sounds out of those.

When Redman plays, I often feel that he's adding new capacities to the instrument. He loves the full range of his sax, hitting syncopated and percussive notes--like snarls or snorts. You felt like the music was being invented right there on the spot. One thing that makes this ensemble, and Redman in particular, special is that you always can feel the architecture of the song even during the most spectacular improvisations. "Greasy G" started with a five minute long solo--sax without accompaniment--full of surprises, but you felt a kind of inevitability when the band kicked in to anchor the song. The song was already anchored in the phrases of the improvisation.

In "News from the Front," Redman used some electronic means (a sequencer, maybe?) to create very cool sonic effects in the intro to the piece, but I have to say that the new sounds that came out of the horn as he was blowing it himself were the most amazing effects of all.

Speaking of monster performances: the Region XC meet was today. As I walked into the park, I spotted my son pulling on his singlet. He came up to me and said, "My coaches told me that if I finish in the top ten, I get to go to state even if my team doesn't qualify." I blurted, "Can you do that?" Two minutes later, I was standing on the hill looking for the varsity girls to come around the bend, thinking, that wasn't the most supportive thing to say! (After the race, all the parental units--mom, dad, both steps--agreed that we had had the same thought, so I didn't feel so bad.)

There were six schools competing, and about 40 varsity boys runners. Two schools have seriously good programs--Bingham and Copper Hills, both also rivals of West Jordan. I'm thinking, okay, Walker, run your best race (also exactly what his dad told him--there are no original thoughts when your kid competes in high school athletics, by the way). The team's stretching, they're warming up, they line up, they're off. The race is on terrain, not a track, but after they start, they make two full circuits of the park, then finish near the starting line. So after the first circuit, Walker was fifteenth, with Josh, the best runner on West Jordan's team, at tenth but fighting not to lose position to another runner. Zach was behind Walker, but not by much. After the second circuit, though, Walker was thirteenth.

We watched as he took the hill (he told us afterward that he might be the best in the region at the hills--yeah, me too!), and even though it was far away, it looked to us like he might have passed Josh. After all the runners finished the second circuit, the crowd shifted back to the chute that would take the runners uphill to the finish. The first couple of runners were from Bingham--they're beautiful runners, the second place finisher just seconds behind the first, both of them running easily and with great form. I was looking for the first glimpse of a white singlet, then I spotted it. At first I thought it was Josh, and thought, I must have seen wrong, Walker didn't pass him. But then, we could tell--it was Walker.

I looked to see if I'd missed another white jersey, but no--he was coming in first for his team, and he was number ten. He finished strong and ran his best race ever--17:27 for the 5K. Zach came in maybe three seconds behind him. Josh was a few second behind that.

The best news of all: West Jordan's teams, both the boys and the girls, qualified to run in the State meet next Wednesday. As Walker stood up with the top ten finishers to receive a medal, and the official declared that West Jordan's team would go to State, he held up his arms to celebrate with all the other West Jordanians. No "I" in "team" is how I hear it.

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