Redman, Blade, Mehldau, McBride Defy Notions Of The Genre

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Bassist Christian McBride (left), saxophonist Joshua Redman, drummer Brian Blade and pianist Brad Mehldau reconvened in the studio after more than two decades for RoundAgain.

(Photo: Michael Wilson)

He recalls trying to connect his love of Black music to his background by playing with his father and experiencing “the depth of feeling and the soul, and the anguish, but also the affirmation in his sound.” Redman also discovered a brotherhood with other African-American musicians, including Blade.

The drummer mentioned that he and Redman were just recently talking about Floyd’s killing. Their experiences as jazz musicians—generally being treated with respect and deference wherever they go, engaging positively with people of all races and backgrounds—seem like they’ve sprung from a world different from what so many people who look like them encounter every day.

“It makes me feel sometimes like I live in a bubble,” Blade said. “We make music and we sort of exist in that idealism. So, how can we send more of that out into the world?”

Redman, who once considered becoming a civil rights attorney, sees music as a reconciliation: “Part of the genius of jazz is that it ultimately resolves these inherent tensions [of Black and white culture]. In its best expression, you get these opposing elements, but somehow, some sort of transcendence is reached where there’s a sort of resolution, some affirmation in the face of all this anguish and heartbreak. It’s a privilege to play the music.”

Like many musicians, both performers are looking to engage with the call for social justice. Perhaps the music they’ve created—following in the footsteps of jazz masters who worked to address societal ills—is their best answer.

But even amid the tumult of the past several months, Blade embodies the eternal optimist: “Martin Luther King [said], ‘Where do we go from here?’ [King] was asking that question, and we’re still having to ask that question. I just hope that we all can go there together.” DB

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