Trios Live is a shameless vehicle for Redman to flaunt his saxophone chops. Culled from a pair of club engagements spaced four years apart, the album is sequenced for maximum impact: Bookended by covers of “Mack the Knife” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean,” it aims for, and delivers, instant gratification.
At 45, decades removed from being an overhyped wunderkind, Redman plays with a near-perfect blend of swagger and authority. His phrases still tend to arrive in heaving waves that are indebted to the masters (Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon), but he also plays with a confident sense of adventure. He dapples polytonality through “Mack The Knife;” trades licks with drummer Gregory Hutchinson and then roars like a freight train on “Act Natural,” goes from plaintive to tense on the lone ballad, “Never Let Me Go.”
Four songs are taken from a 2009 engagement at the Jazz Standard in New York, with Matt Penman on bass, and three others are from Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., in 2013, with bassist Reuben Rogers. Hutchinson drums throughout. The shouts and post-song applause are superfluous: It’s obvious from every note this is a crowd-pleaser.