Thursday, December 06, 2007

Joshua Redman - Back East (Nonesuch, 2007)

After fulfilling his obligation as nominal leader of the SF Jazz Collective and disbanding his own electric jazz band, tenor saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman returns with an album of acoustic trio music, backed by a rotating cadre of bassist and drummers and joined by the occasional guest saxophonist. Much indebted to Sonny Rollins' wonderful trio albums during the 1950's, Redman is still able to use the many possibilities of the format to craft his own style. Taking on Rollins in the format he pioneered is a daunting task, but Redman acquits himself well, performing excellent versions of "Wagon Wheels" and "I'm An Old Cowhand," both of which were staples of the classic Rollins LP Way Out West. As impressive as these are, the finest track on the album may be the extraordinary version of John Coltrane's exotic modal composition "India." Joined by his father Dewey Redman, who would pass on not long after this recording, they craft an otherworldly performance which is the highlight of the album. Redman's own compositions may be a little overshadowed by the illustrious company they are keeping on this disc, but they also work well. Eric Harland adds some fine drumming that adds propulsion to "Mantra #5," and the title track "Back East" is one of his most ebullient performances to date. This is a very fine album, the wide open vistas of the trio setting clearly appeal to Joshua Redman and he responds with some very inspired playing. The group simmers with energy, creating enjoyable and creative music throughout.

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