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Joshua Redman is growing more consistent. Each new record is more profound and individual than the last. With Beyond, his 2000 effort, the young tenor star debuted a new quartet, featuring Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. Redman has tended to change bands from record to record, but here the same quartet remains, giving the music a strong sense of continuity. And like Beyond, the new Passage of Time is an all-original outing, affording us another sustained look at Redman the composer.
All eight of these new pieces are threaded together in a way that recalls 1999's Timeless Tales. Beginning with the tenor soliloquy "Before" and ending with the moving, hymn-like "After," Redman configures the album as an unfolding story, a "passage of time"-'one that peaks calmly with the extended piece "Time." Redman unleashes one of his most passionate melodies to date on "Bronze," surges brilliantly on "Enemies Within," and crafts a distinctively dancing odd meter on "Our Minuet." There are no liner notes, so the listener is left to speculate about the political implications of the vibrant two-part mini-suite "Free Speech."
After the last note of the record fades away, one can hear exhausted sighs and comments from the band members. Redman, with mock officiousness, says, "OK, see you cats next year." Let's hope so. Another record by this battle-hardened quartet would be welcome indeed.