It’s the 33rd annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.
The Copenhagen Jazz Festival continues, and I try to keep up. And by going to catch Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman perform after having seen them do a similar show in Montreal last week, I guess I took the easy way out. Still, this was a world-class gig, and I was eager to see how the guys were progressing as they made their way across Europe. The results were predictably impressive, and if anything, the two men are getting even more in tune with each other—if that’s possible. Mehldau and Redman have played together in various group formats over the years, but as far as I can recall, this is the first series of shows where they’ve appeared as a duo. While the bulk of the evening featured new, as yet unrecorded material written by either Mehldau or Redman, they did fall back on one jazz classic, performing “Monk’s Dream” to a highly appreciative audience.
As usual, Mehldau’s piano work was both cerebral and emotive, but Redman certainly was his equal, providing a near-perfect counterpoint on tenor and soprano saxophone. The pressure was clearly on the pair with no rhythm section to rely on, but their sound was full and had its own internal momentum as the two showed off their vast capacities as improvisers. For an encore, they pulled a rabbit out of the proverbial hat with a dynamic version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Brought back to the stage once more by the politely insistent Danish crowd, the only thing left for the them to do was play the old chestnut “On The Sunny Side of The Street.” And that was it.
Taking advantage of simple proximity, I walked out of the Mehldau/Redman gig and stepped right into an adjacent room where legendary drummer Andrew Cyrille was in the process of putting on a very educational solo show. Cyrille is an avant-garde drummer who has worked with everyone from Coleman Hawkins to Carla Bley, and he got his big break playing with pianist Cecil Taylor back in the mid-’60s. As a matter of fact, Cyrille played on some of Taylor’s most important early recordings including Unit Structures, Conquistador and The Great Concert Of Cecil Taylor.
Cyrille had already been playing with various European improvisers in the course of this jazz festival, but his solo show on Friday resembled something of a masters-class drum clinic. In between his amazing rhythmic displays, Cyrille discussed various aspects of percussive theory as well as a healthy discourse of jazz history. He paid homage (verbally and physically) to drum innovators like Art Blakey and Kenny Clarke, and he discussed peers like Rashied Ali, Milford Graves, Michael Carvin and others. Near the end of the gig, I noticed drummer Adam Nussbaum was in the audience, and he just couldn’t say enough about how cool, classy and important Cyrille was. Many of us stayed after the show was over in order to meet and speak with the man, and now I’m proud to say that I shook the hand that shook the hand of many of the classic figures in jazz. Nuff said.