Culture Watch: Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland, ‘James Farm’


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James Farm, ‘James Farm’



Somehow it’s become easy to take saxophonist Joshua Redman for granted. Averaging an album every two years or so since his lauded emergence in the early ‘90s, Redman has been showcasing a renewed willingness to reach into unfamiliar territory lately, first with his underrated 2009 album ‘Compass’ and now with this genre-defying project released this past spring.

While the ‘70s-era decadence tied to the term ‘supergroup’ makes it a loaded concept, it’s hard not to consider James Farm in that neighborhood. Joined by eclectic young pianist Aaron Parks and a rhythm section hewn out of SFJAZZ Collective fixtures Matt Penman and Eric Harland, James Farm forages at the frontier between jazz and rock. With Redman’s saxophone fed through an bank of buzzy electronics, the frantic ‘I-10’ carries a driving menace, and the insistent ‘1981’ opens with a punchy melodic drive but leaves ample room for Parks and Redman to open up the throttle. There isn’t much in the way of conventional swing and structure here, but the new ground covered by Redman and his cohorts casts a spell of its own.


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— Chris Barton