425

Joshua Redman: Compass

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Like its predecessor Back East (Nonesuch, 2007), saxophonist Joshua Redman's Compass invites comparisons with Sonny Rollins' totemic acoustic trio outing Way Out West (Riverside, 1957), whose instrumentation it reflects and whose influence Redman has acknowledged.



Another Rollins album which springs to mind, though more for its title than its structure, is Saxophone Colossus (Riverside, 1956); for with Compass, Redman, like Rollins 53 years earlier, has produced the most singular album of his career so far. Redman's previous acoustic albums have been uniformly strong, but have lacked a certain something—an in the moment, devil-may-care spontaneity—which would have lifted them beyond competence towards greatness. On Compass, however, the saxophonist has cast caution and concern with form aside: a loose-limbed, wayfaring vibe permeates the music, to its great advantage.



Gathering around him four longtime colleagues—bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers and drummers Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson—Redman went into the studio with few preconceptions other than to dig deeper into the piano-less trio format and, as he writes in the liner notes, to "let go." Somewhere along the line he had the idea of using multiple bassists and drummers. Five of the 13 tracks on Compass feature two bassists and two drummers, while another pair include two bassists and one drummer. The remaining six tracks feature the four accompanists in various trio permutations with Redman.



On the quintet tracks, Redman has avoided using the doubled-up rhythm section simply for increased volume and impact. Instead he has fostered a call and response dialogue between the musicians, who—with the exception of Redman himself, magnificently on-mic practically from start to finish—take turns to lay out and listen as frequently as they step forward to be heard. While there are passages on "Identity Thief" and "Just Like You" when the band hits the listener with the force of a twin-engined express train, there are others, notably on "Little Ditty" and "Moonlight," a reading of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," which, despite the massed firepower, are pretty and delicate, sometimes even dainty.



With the exception of "Moonlight" all the tunes are group originals, most of them written by Redman. Sometimes, as on the boppish "Hutchhiker's Guide" and "Round Reuben," the Pat Metheny-esque "Faraway," or the Eastern-undertoned, soprano vignette "Ghost," Redman's tunes are conventionally conceived. Almost as frequently, they resemble exercises or motifs, skeletal and reiterative, but with each nonetheless possessing a recognisable emotional character—the restless "Insomnomaniac" and manic "Un Peu Fou" are as their titles suggest.



An album of vigorous, passionate, improvised music built on simple tunes and unfussy arrangements, Compass is Joshua Redman's first undeniably colossal album.

Track Listing: Uncharted; Faraway; Identity Thief; Just Like You; Hutchhiker's Guide; Ghost; Insomnomaniac; Moonlight; Un Peu Fou; March; Round Reuben; Little Ditty; Through The Valley.

Personnel: Joshua Redman: tenor saxophone (1-5, 7-9, 11, 13), soprano saxophone (6, 10, 12); Larry Grenadier: bass (1-6, 8, 10, 12, 13); Reuben Rogers: bass (1, 3, 4, 7-13); Brian Blade: drums (2-4, 6, 8-13); Gregory Hutchinson: drums (1, 2-5, 7, 8, 10, 12).

Title: Compass | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Interviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Still Dreaming

Still Dreaming

Nonesuch Records
2018

buy
Nearness

Nearness

Nonesuch Records
2016

buy
The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

The Bad Plus Joshua...

Nonesuch Records
2015

buy
Trios Live

Trios Live

Nonesuch Records
2014

buy
Walking Shadows

Walking Shadows

Nonesuch Records
2013

buy
Compass

Compass

Nonesuch Records
2009

buy

Upcoming Shows

Related Articles

Read Live in Newcastle, December 8, 1972 Album Reviews
Live in Newcastle, December 8, 1972
By John Kelman
April 19, 2019
Read HUJE 2018 Album Reviews
HUJE 2018
By Jack Bowers
April 19, 2019
Read Farallon Album Reviews
Farallon
By Jerome Wilson
April 19, 2019
Read Burning Meditation Album Reviews
Burning Meditation
By John Sharpe
April 18, 2019
Read Remembering Cecil Album Reviews
Remembering Cecil
By Dan McClenaghan
April 18, 2019
Read Apophenia Album Reviews
Apophenia
By Roger Farbey
April 18, 2019
Read Transcending the Sum Album Reviews
Transcending the Sum
By Chris May
April 17, 2019