Texas tenor sax players are generally typecast as a gutbucket honker (Arnett Cobb) or as a soulful, blues oriented stylist (David "Fathead" Newman).
There are exceptions, however, and Dewey Redman and his old high school buddy Ornette Coleman definitely break the mold.
While Coleman, with his white plastic alto sax and revolutionary approaches to improvisation and composition, may leave a more enduring mark on jazz history, Redman is not just an elder statesman coasting on a reputation garnered during his years as a cutting edge sideman with Coleman, Charlie Haden and Keith Jarrett, among others.
Given that he will turn 75 in May, Redman still managed to cover a surprising number of bases during his Sunday afternoon concert in Albright-Knox Art Gallery. He and his quartet performed standards like "Take the A Train" and "Everything Happens to Me," but they also took on material more reminiscent of the work Redman used to do when he played alongside Coleman in one of the 20th century's most challenging jazz groups.
"Twins" was a vivid example of this more adventurous style. This tune was a duet of duos that showcased Redman and drummer Matt Wilson alternating phrases with pianist Frank Kimbrough and bassist John Menegon in a tightly spiraling dance of melodic complexity.
On another song, Redman even broke out the musette (a reed instrument with a wide bell at the bottom) and played some licks that sounded like an instrumental version of a muezzin's call to prayer.
Still, by the end of the concert Redman managed to charm his audience as well as challenge it. He did this with some admittedly tried and true tricks like walking the aisles while blowing short, punchy phrases or goading the audience to clap along to the beat during a call and response routine.
Redman also proved to be a pretty unique scat singer, punctuating the music played by the backup musicians with guttural sounds that were as far from the smooth, flowing utterances of Ella Fitzgerald or Eddie Jefferson (two of the finest scat singers ever) as was possible.
The Dewey Redman Quartet
Part of the Art of Jazz Series at Albright-Knox Art Gallery on Sunday.