This weeks album is from one of the most prominent jazz musicians today, Joshua Redman. Joshua Redman has been involved in the jazz scene since the early 1990s when he chose pursuing a career in jazz over getting his law degree from Yale. Ironically Redman is often criticized for being a conservative jazz musician. Being a part of Bebop University and going to the John Coltrane Church every Sunday. However, on this album, nothing can be further from the truth. On “Beyond” Redman does just that playing all original music, with a new group, and experimenting with different time signatures throughout. His group consisted of Aaron Goldberg on piano, Gregory Hutchinson on drums, Reuben Rodgers on bass, and of course Joshua Redman on the sax. This album is an absolute delight with great grooves, melodies, and solos.
This album contains 10 tracks so I will highlight four of them to give you a comprehensive grasp of the album. I will begin with the opening track Courage (Asymmertic Aria). So here Joshua Redman begins to already play with time, the opening track is in 13/4. The track begins with just piano and bass playing a melodic idea then the drums come in followed by Redman starting the melody. The bass continues to play the melodic vamp underneath the melody but the piano plays chords instead. The melody is played twice and then Redman begins his solo. It’s hard to catch the solo for a couple reasons. One the song is relatively unfamiliar and Redman’s solo is very melodic at the start. Just pay close attention to the rhythm section they can get into “Backing track mode” (not in a bad way) as Redman really picks up the speed. Also listen to the end of the tune and you can pick up on the repeated sections. Redman develops a great solo starting with short melodic ideas and building off of them to get into running bebop verbiage. As a pianist myself I loved Goldberg’s solo. He just comes out burning playing fast bebop and pentatonic licks and playing these big voicings in between. He’s just playing like a madman. I feel a sense of urgency, like this is his last solo and he has to say it all now. It’s great. Following Goldberg’s solo we come back to the head and the track fades out.
Track four is another one of my personal favorites. It’s titled “Leap of Faith” and features Joshua Redman and guest artist Mark Turner on sax. It begins with a really out there intro both Redman and Turner are just playing off each other’s ideas and truly having a musical conversation with each other. The section concludes with both playing in unison and beginning the head with the rest of the band. Doing this really gives the tune a “pop” if you will. It’s like stretching a rubber-band out then releasing it, The melody is played with such strength and conviction by both of them as they play alone, in unioson, and as each other’s accompaniment throughout. I love the vamp that starts around minute 2:40. If that dosen’t get you moving I don’t know what will. The solos are magnificent. As both really start soloing together just adding parts to the conversation. Then one person leads and again we have both really sharing soloing responsibilities by responding and reacting to what the other does. When we come out of the solos you can feel the energy from the solos pour over into the melody as we return to a vamp similar to the one I mentioned earlier that occurred in min 2:40. The tune ends with both playing the head and just screeching notes out of their respective horns.
Track seven is titled “Stoic Revolutions” and again a odd time signature, 6/4. I picked this tune for a couple reasons. One its nearing the end of the album and two, the piano solo is awesome. The track begins with a nice groove being held down by drums, bass, and piano then Redman comes in with the head. Redman’ s solo again starts very melodic stretching out just a couple times to test tonality. As his solo progresses he really starts to play those running lines and hitting some dissonant sounding notes after he finishes ideas. After Redman’s solo Goldberg takes the end of Redman’s solo and uses it on piano. He starts with lots of blues and pentatonic riffs. Then he channels his inner Mccoy Tyner and runs different triads over different chord changes. It just has such a funky groove he plays with great rhythmic ideas that only enhance the energy thats already imbedded into the tune. They come back to the head after the piano solo and conclude the song.
The album concludes with “A Life?” which begins with a piano vamp followed by the bass as the primary melodic instrument. The song has a melancholy feel as we hear brushes on the drums and a piano solo after the melody is played. Nice slow, elegant, melodic ideas, in Goldberg’s solo. Even referencing the melody in his own soloing. Following Goldberg’s solo is Redman. This is the first time we are hearing Redman on this tune which is rare since usually he is the focal point of the tune. He also plays with a lot of space and references the melody throughout his solo. I love how even on this mellow song he pushes tonality and explores the entire range of his horn. Finally we have a bass solo by Reuben Rogers following Redman’s solo. This is a nice touch and change of pace. It’s also interesting how the last sound we hear is the piano vamping away until its the only instrument we hear. Its a powerful and unique way to end the album as Redman, the leader of this group, does not dominate or even end the album as the main musician in this final song “What Life?”
If you ever need proof that Joshua Redman is just as innovative as any modern jazz musician around today this album would be your proof. A great new group, interesting time signatures, and some of the most experimental solos of his career. As with any other musician I feature on my blog whenever Joshua Redman comes to town make a effort to see him. He’s one of the best musicians jazz has to offer today.