Dewey Redman’s usually associated with jazz’s left wing: As Ornette Coleman’s foil from 1967 to 1974, the tenor saxophonist developed a personal take on his boss’s happy ramblin’ alto sound. (His timbre was darker and woollier, befitting his bigger horn, but still nimble enough to track Coleman’s sudden zigzags.) He also co-led a 1999 release, Momentum Space (Verve), with fellow progressives Cecil Taylor and Elvin Jones. But if liberal cred was all Redman had going for him, it’s not bloody likely he’d be booked this week into Chicago’s bebop temple, the Jazz Showcase. Redman’s a native of Fort Worth, and he’s always had a bit of “Texas tenor” to his sound: his 1982 bouncing-like-bedsprings blues “Turn Over Baby” (from his fine long-gone ECM record The Struggle Continues) was jukebox bait. Now 70, Redman has turned more and more in recent years toward plaintive ballads, perhaps hoping for a fraction of the mainstream success his son Joshua enjoys–though to be fair, he played some slow and pretty ones in the old days too. At his best he brings all these strains together: he’s exploratory and bluesy and has a gorgeous sound all at once. On one memorable New York gig in 1989, relentlessly pursued by bassist Mark Helias and drummer Ralph Peterson, he would play a lucidly developed solo for 20 minutes, start to wrap it up, then go off on a tangent for another 20. His fund of ideas and the luminous depths of his sound appeared bottomless. These days he prefers a good rhythm section that doesn’t push him quite that hard. On this visit it’ll be pianist Barney McCall, bassist John Menagon, and–making his first Chicago appearance in weeks–New York drummer Matt Wilson, a vet of Redman bands going back to 1994. The saxophonist has been known to coast through a gig now and then, but Wilson’s resourceful and energetic enough to draw him out. Redman may also elect to bring his alto or double-reed musette, or to sing a bit, but tenor is where his heart is. Tuesday through Thursday, March 5 through 7, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, March 10, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.