Monday, December 12, 2016

ART OF MUSIC - Improvisational Jazz

"The ‘white heat' and vulnerability of improvisational jazz" PBS NewsHour 12/6/2016

Jazz is my first love in music since my discovery of Dave Brubeck way back when.


SUMMARY:  What is improvisational jazz all about?  Saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau agree that the answer is vulnerability.  Their musical genre requires players to follow one another's lead -- often letting another performer dictate the musical conversation.  Jeffrey Brown sits down with Redman and Mehldau to discuss emotion in their art and why "it's a great time to be a jazz musician."

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  The song, Hoagy Carmichael's 1938 ballad “The Nearness of You,” performed as a kind of conversation between two master musicians who happen to be peers and friends; saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Brad Mehldau.

BRAD MEHLDAU, Pianist:  If you're going to play a ballad with someone, and you want it to be anything deeper than this just sort of surface, you're going to have to be vulnerable for the other person.  And that's what the audience wants to see, too.

JOSHUA REDMAN, Saxophonist:  Yes.  Jazz is all about vulnerability.

BRAD MEHLDAU:  So, you got to…

JEFFREY BROWN:  Vulnerability?



JOSHUA REDMAN:  I think so, yes, because we're improvising, you know?  And we're not coming to the bandstand with a preconceived notion of what we're going to play.

We have to be open and available and vulnerable to really make that connection with ourselves and with the other musician.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Redman, 47, and Mehldau, 46, have been filling concert halls and jazz clubs, on their own, as band leaders, and together, for more than 20 years.

This fall, they have joined forces again in a recent performance at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center, and on a newly-released album titled “Nearness,” a mix of original material and jazz standards recorded live on tour in 2011.

JOSHUA REDMAN:  I feel so fortunate to be able to make the music that I believe in, and to get up there every night and just play from the soul and go for it.

BRAD MEHLDAU:  As an improvising musician, I really feel committed to not going out there and playing some nonsense for people, you know?


BRAD MEHLDAU:  There's a bit of a script.  We have some plan, but what they want to hear is, they really want to hear us try to be creative.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Both men came to music early.  Redman, in California, was raised by his dancer mother, and is the son of well-known saxophonist Dewey Redman.  Mehldau in Florida and Connecticut in a family home never without a piano.

They arrived separately in New York in the early 1990s, where each found his own early success.

We spoke recently at the Steinway Piano Showroom in Manhattan just before a concert.

BRAD MEHLDAU:  Even when I'm ostensibly accompanying him, and he's ostensibly taking the solo, we're still having this conversation.  So it may mean, for instance, that he plays a melodic idea, and then I respond to it sort of in real time, and I might even give him something back, that then he responds to again.

JOSHUA REDMAN:  I'm always looking for something.

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