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The New Cool: Top sax players visit Seattle next week

Justin Steyer
James Carter in the KNKX studios in 2013. He's at the Moore Theater in Seattle November 21.

Their styles vary depending on musical setting, they don't collaborate often, but there's no doubt that Joshua Redman and James Carter are two of the most intriguing and progressive saxophone players of the 21st Century. Happily, both musicians will be performing in Seattle next week.

Both are members of Generation X, and began their careers around the same time. Redman's first album came out in 1993. Carter, born less than a month before Redman in 1969, also put out his debut that year. Both records showed players beyond their years in talent, schooled in jazz tradition but eager to express their own dynamic personalities.

The son of jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman, Joshua grew up in Berkeley, California. He graduated Harvard University summa cum laude in 1991, and was accepted to Yale Law School, but Redman had caught the jazz bug.

Redman won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute saxophone competition the same year he graduated from Harvard. Attention built quickly with that quality debut album, his work with Pat Metheny, and his amazing mid-90s quartet album Moodswing. Young future jazz stars Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade formed the backing trio and made this one of the few classics of the era.

Over the past years, Joshua Redman has continued to build his skillset. He co-founded the SF Jazz Collective, collaborated with Umphree's McGee, The Bad Plus, and symphonies around the world. Thrice a Grammy nominee, it seems just a matter of time before his first win.

For a pair of Triple Door shows next week, Redman brings the band he's led for nearly 20 years to celebrate their first album since 2001's Passage of Time. With the new Come What May, pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson are a well-oiled machine that provide Redman a firm but flexible foundation upon which he can express everything he's learned to this point.

Surely, Joshua Redman is in his prime. These two shows are a fantastic opportunity for Seattle jazz fans. Tune in to the New Cool this Saturday to hear an exclusive studio session performance from The Bad Plus Joshua Redman from 2015. Redman brings his quartet to the KNKX studios next week, and we'll post the full session soon!

Credit Aaron Hushagen
Joshua Redman with The Bad Plus in the KNKX studios from 2015. Redman's own quartet plays the Triple Door November 20 and 21.

Detroit native James Carter has had a more circuitous career path, but no less impressive. At just 16 years old, Carter was earning a reputation as a monster on the saxophone. A fellow saxophonist in the Marcus Belgrave Big Band wrote a now-infamous blog post about how intimidating the teenager was, called "James Carter Ruined My Life", recalling how the writer quit playing for six months after a tour of Europe with the young phenomenon.

Carter has explored jazz tradition with an album recalling Coleman Hawkins' work in the 30s with Django Reinhardt and has also honored Billie Holiday. He made an album covering songs by mid-90s alternative rockers Pavement. As Joshua Redman has done, Carter's worked his way into classical music, recently appearing with the Tacoma Symphony.

Often working with organ trios, as in his KNKX studio session performance with guitarist Pat Martino in 2013, Carter has found what seems to be his comfort zone. Check out the live album Out of Nowhere and his Heaven and Earth collaboration with John Medeski and others.

Now, of course, the restless artist continues to find new creative settings. The new project James Carter's Elektrik Outlet transforms his saxophone sounds with an array of effects pedals and electronics. With this new project, Carter takes soulful music by Stevie Wonder, Gene Ammons, Al Jarreau and others to places never before imagined.

Without a new album in eight years, The New Cool waits patiently but eagerly for a new release from the Elektrik Outlet or any other group Mr. Carter would care to record.

In the meantime, you can see James Carter in action with his organ trio band of 17 years. They're my highlight in a remarkable lineup of the top young artists in jazz today forming the Blue Note 80th Anniversary Tour show at the Moore Theater in Seattle November 21.

Pianist/singer Kandace Springs and pianist/keyboard player James Francies are world-class talents in their own right, but I'd be happy with a full show from James Carter any night. I guess Carter will continue to keep fans wanting more, for now.

Saturday afternoon on The New Cool you'll hear James Carter ripping up his tenor sax on the ultra-cool "Drafadelle in D Flat", featuring a mind-blowing minute-and-a-half solo saxophone intro.

James Carter and Joshua Redman are simply two of the finest saxophone players of their generation, and this coming week gives Seattle a rare opportunity to catch them both in concert. Celebrate the kings of modern saxophone with The New Cool this week!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a 3rd generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.
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