Friday, June 08, 2018

Joshua Redman - Still Dreaming (Nonesuch, 2018)

Saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman is joined by Brian Blade on drums and percussion, Scott Colley on bass and Ron Miles on trumpet for an album inspired by his father Dewey's band, Old and New Dreams. That band was inspired by their mentor, Ornette Coleman, continuing acoustically as Coleman moved on into a new direction od electronic music. "New Year" begins the album with an exciting and fast paced full band opening theme and melody opening, followed by fast but well controlled saxophone with crisp rhythm accompaniment, and a strong and punchy trumpet interlude, along with bass and drums trading short sections. The jaunty theme has echoes of classic period Coleman lines and Redman and Miles jettison the rhythm briefly for some Ornette / Done Cherry freestyling. There is a brisk harmonized horn opening on "Unanimity," with the bass and drums dropping in and out, before laying down a firm foundation for Redman's exploratory saxophone solo. The trio moves at a very fast clip with Blade's active drumming driving the music ever forward. A choppy re-statement of the theme launches Miles into a solo slot, where he plays with grace and fluidity along with thick bass and rolling percussion. The band comes together nicely for a freebop collective improvisation that carries them through to the conclusion. "Haze and Aspirations" develops a thoughtful and spare bass solo that leads the group into a winsome theme framed by subtle brushed percussion, as the horns play melancholy lines that are attractive and appealing within the context of the overall theme. The horns have a light touch and play together very well, before branching out for individual medium tempo solos. Colley is at the center of this whole performance and his playing is delicate and precise throughout, with a deep tone and understated virtuosity.  There is slow and steady approach to "It's Not the Same," leading to music of depth, as the horns twist and turn around one another like a double helix and minimal percussion and bass keep the groove open to any possibility, leading into "Blues for Charis" which has a bluesy saxophone opening soulful and genuine feeling. The other musicians gradually fold in, starting with bass, then drums and trumpet, with everybody pulling together for a memorable and evocative theme. The quartet's improvisation grows much more strident and free, reaching deep within themselves for music of great impact. The horn solos continue this trend, with tight bass and drums complementing them the whole way, before the music moves back to the moody theme for the final finish. "Playing" has resonant bowed bass under thoughtful saxophone and trumpet, beginning in a pastel and painterly fashion, before insistent drums move in and change the pace of the performance entirely to a fast wide open improvisation that takes the theme and uses it for a wide ranging improvised section for the whole band together focusing on the unit as a whole rather then individual musician within. Fluid music that comes in dynamic waves is the nature of "Comme II," sounding open in scope but tightly controlled with bowed bass textures and yearning horn playing reaching to a scream that has an intense feeling of longing, evidenced by some of Redman's most intense playing on record. Finally "The Rest" concludes the album with stark and moody playing and an elegiac setting, one that gradually rises in volume and intensity, cultivating an emotional middle section that is characterized by intense feeling, that fades to silence before returning for a blistering trumpet line and echoing almost dub saxophone, creating a coda that is at odds with the majority of the music on the album. Although this album was inspired by the great Old and New Dreams records on Black Saint and ECM, they are far from a repertory unit. This is a very talented modern mainstream jazz band that uses the totality of post-bop jazz as an inspiration for a finely crafted musical statement. Still Dreaming -

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