GREAT BARRINGTON >> Jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman admitted on Sunday night that the large crowd at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center surprised him a little.
"I think the last time we were here there were, like, three people," he joked. "So we appreciate you coming out to support us."
For the record, the Joshua Redman Quartet actually played to about two-thirds full house a few years ago, according to Eagle files. On Sunday, the place was nearly sold out.
But that is all Redman and his very talented band mates. Redman, 47, has proven to be one of the great jazz musicians of his generation, for any instrument.
His fellow performers — pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Greg Hutchinson — are no slouches, either. All four performers are near the top of any list of great jazz musicians.
They proved it on Sunday, playing a strong, 12-song, 110-minute set that clearly thrilled the audience.
Redman's style ricochets between Sonny Rollins mellow and Charlie Parker staccato, with a little Stan Getz factored in. His solos are inventive and vary widely in tempo and elasticity. He had the audience riveted throughout the show.
One of his best was during an upbeat "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," later in the show. But all his excursions panned out pretty well.
Redman, in an interview with The Eagle a week ago, made it clear that his leadership style, at least regarding this crew, is to lead by giving every performer the space they need to stretch out.
It's a good plan. Rogers, every song, would actually move offstage when one of his fellow musicians would kick in with a solo. Redman is well aware that when he performs, all eyes rest on him. He moves offstage to give the rest of the crew some attention.
In the early going, for example, Goldberg submitted some swinging piano riffs in the first two numbers, "Vast," and "What We Do."
Redman and the group segued onto a more mellow number, with the luxurious "Borrowed Eyes." Here, Hutchinson switched his sticks for the brushes and lead the quartet down a more measured path.
But Redman's fondness for his bassist, Rogers, showed several times during the evening. The Virgin Islands native is one of the foremost bassists in the world. During the salty-titled "D.G.A.F." (as in, Don't Give a F***), Rogers jumped into a lovely solo that had Redman, sitting offstage, sigh in appreciation.
The set was also pretty flexible. At one point, late in the set, Redman turned around and huddled with the boys. He turned around and the band launched into a scintillating version of "Chill," a song he wrote in the 1990s.
"That was an audible," he revealed. "We don't play it much anymore, but tonight seemed like a good time."
For Redman and his group, there was never a bad time on Sunday.
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251