I know you can’t/shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Jasper Redd’s new project, “Jazz Talk,” you can. First of all, kudos to the CD’s production team for one of my favorite art designs in recent history. Capturing the cool hep-ness of classic album jacket sleeves, the blue tones and classic fonts over a worn cross-hatch pattern create a picture I wouldn’t hesitate to frame and hang in my home. In fact, “cool” is the key word here and the comedy that lies therein is exactly what the packaging promises.
Redd is smooth, laid-back, and - yes - cool. His style hearkens that of a beat poet from the early 60’s (without actually doing beat poetry) and the listener is instantly transported to a time when comedians didn’t have to shout or shock to be funny. Redd brings laughter on his own relaxed terms.
Early on in his set, Redd explains he doesn’t do material on relationships or politics but instead chooses to tackle important topics like dogs who rat out others, inane sports rules, and McDonaldland’s Grimace. As he circles these subjects - and many more - he shows just how funny someone can be without having to scream every observation. He slays us with calm razor-sharp insights that slice deep and make us wonder just what in the world the Whopper has been up to behind the counter.
One thing I love about Redd’s onstage presence is the way he almost gets things right. This is a character trying to sound educated and informed (proudly opting for words like “establishment” instead of “store”) and would pull it off if it weren’t for the random mispronunciation or use of a non-existent word that completely blows his cover (such as the Spanish word “inappropriante”). It’s a small detail that, in someone else’s hands, could have been overplayed. It’s easy to point a neon arrow at yourself and say, “Look how silly I am!” but Redd - you guessed it - plays it cool. He doesn’t draw attention to what he’s doing and as a result it’s even funnier when he does it.
Redd closes his set backed by a live jazz band, swapping out his longer bits for one-liners and short quips. They’re fun, but I prefer him as a storyteller. I loved hearing him explain how, although he avoids anything to do with slavery, there is a time to be pro-white. His uninsured “in case of emergency” contingency plan is all-too familiar and you’ll love hearing the genesis behind the reason why he’s still not sure if he sold his father some marijuana. He invites you to keep your third eye open as he explains the real symbolism behind the penny and as a cinephile, I may never look at the DVD Director’s Commentary bonus features the same way again.