Talk about the passage of time, a turn of phrase that gives Joshua Redman’s new album its name, hard to believe that it’s been eight years since the saxophonist released his first album as a leader. Since then, Redman has consistently been the darling of a new generation of jazz lovers, while also raising the ears of those seasoned listeners who appreciate the sense of history and tradition that Redman lays bare with his horn. Although two of his previous records featured guitarists (namely, Pat Metheny and Peter Bernstein), Redman has remained committed to the quartet format and Passage of Time is no exception there (the latest group features Aaron Goldberg, Rueben Rogers, and Gregory Hutchinson). Our leader also likes to write his own material and this holds true for this new endeavor too, although it arguably contains some of his best work in this area.
Firing things up, Redman starts the disc off by himself with a proclomation that utilizes the tenor’s full range and expressive manner. “Before” acts as a call to worship, leading us to the upbeat swing of “Free Speech, Phase I.” Over a vamp, drummer Hutchinson develops a nice froth and foam that leads to the peaceful strains of “Free Speech, Phase II.” Four lengthier cuts then provide the meat and potatoes. “Time” clocks in at over ten minutes and the ominous ballad is very close to a musical dialogue, with both Redman and Goldberg tossing phrases back and forth at each other. “Enemies Within” provides the up tempo swing factor with Redman at his most animated, only to then cool the waters with the aptly titled vignette “After.”
Throughout Passage of Time, which in some ways functions almost like a suite, Redman’s writing and playing evolves through the use of extended forms that allow for plenty of expressive leg room. This takes the music to a new level that simply cannot be reached via your standard blowing session.