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Joshua Redman: Freedom In the Groove

C. Michael Bailey By

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Intro. In the 15 years that I have been following jazz there have been two new tenor player about whom much ado was made: Courtney Pine and Joshua Redman. The Englishman Pine sprung on the scene in the mid-80s with a Coltrane fixation rivaling that of Anton Bruckner with Beethoven. His album titles further betrayed his allegiance ( Journey to the Urge Within, Destiny's Song and The Image of Pursuance, and The Vision's Tale ). Pine eventually went a quasi-world music route recording sporadically in the 90s.

Joshua Redman, son of avant-garde tenorist Dewey Redman, Harvard graduate with a bright future potential in multiple areas (Medicine, Law) won the 1991 Thelonious Monk Competition and a Warner Brothers contract and subsequently released a self-titled disc and the highly-praised Wish. He has an informed, compressed tone that is immediately appealing and accessible. Critic Scott Yanow likens Redman's performance style to those of Red Holloway and Gene Ammons, stating that he "will probably never be an innovator". I see that as a plus. There is an immediate familiarity in Redman's playing, some thing very comfortable like seeing that old friend after many years and picking up where your left off.. These attributes are what make the three-year-old Freedom in the Groove such an attractive disc.

Why an Old Disc?. Freedom in the Groove was release before the genesis of All About Jazz. I felt it deserved a listen and a word today because I had two non-jazz listening friends recommend it. The last time something like that happened was 11 or 12 years ago, when a different couple of non-jazz listening friends suggested that I purchase Kind of Blue. While Freedom in the Groove is in no way a Kind of Blue, it is a romping good time, containing inspired composition and performance that is ready made for listening with no introduction to that idiom which is Jazz.

Hero With a Thousand Faces. Joshua Redman effectively enters old stylistic mines and discovers and investigates new and familiar veins of musical ore. With his musical miner's hat on, Redman dusts off and updates funky, staccato blues ("Hide and Seek"), sleek alto R & B a la David Sanborn ("One Shining Soul"), strutting contemporary ("Streams of Consciousness"), preaching blues ("When The Sun Comes Down"), jump blues ("Home Fries"), and wailing, preaching gospel ("Invocation"). And that is just the highlights to a disc full of highlights. Redman's supporting quartet do him proud with standout performances by Peter Bernstein on guitar and Peter Martin on piano. Run, don't walk, and buy this disc. It is thoroughly entertaining Jazz.


Track Listing: Hide and Seek, One Shining Soul, Streams of Consciousness, When the Sun Comes Down, Home Fires, Invocation, Dare I Ask, Cat Battles, Pantomime, Can't Dance.

Personnel: Joshua Redman: Tenor, Alto, and Soprano Saxophones, Peter Bernstein: Guitar, Peter Martin: Piano, Christopher Thomas: Bass, Brian Blade: Drums.

Title: Freedom In the Groove | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Warner Bros.

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