Dewey Redman, who died September 2, 2006 at the age of 75, will be best remembered for his work with Ornette Coleman from 1967-1974 and Keith Jarrett's "American" quartet in the mid-1970s, with an overall reputation leaning towards the freer side of jazz expression. The Struggle Continues
, recorded in 1982, is making its first appearance on CD and is quite welcome. The overall style is on the straight-ahead side, but rather than merely play changes using the well-known language of bop, hard bop and post bop, chances are taken the mark of the creative artist. For Redman, there is no need to play outside of the boundaries of the music at hand. Indeed, his playing on one of his last recordings, alto saxophonist Francois Carrier's freely improvised Open Spaces
(Spool, 2006), is exactly what is needed, but at the other end of the spectrum.
Redman's supporting band is very sharp, featuring bassist Mark Helias, who plays aggressively with a full, deep sound, while maintaining a strong connection to drummer Ed Blackwell and pianist Charles Eubanks. They sound like a band and not merely a collection of good players brought together for a recording session.
Redman wrote all the compositions except the last, "Dewey Square," which is by Charlie Parker, and each shows a different side of his personality within the more structured confines of the mainstream. However, because Redman is such an original artist, The Struggle Continues
is anything but a pure straight-ahead session as every note becomes personalized and hence recognizable as coming from him.
"Thren" starts out clearly enough with its bebop-ish theme. However, over the straight drumming and walking bass, Redman plays with rhythmic freedom, while never losing touch with Helias and Blackman. Eubank's answering solo takes up the challenge and things get hot. Once it gets going, "Love Is" initially sounds like a straightforward jazz ballad, except that the meter refuses to be in 3 or in 4, making for a lovely effect underneath Redman's expressive playing.
"Turn Over Baby" is a real low-down, slinky, deep bluesy piece that makes you realize that Redman can do that convincingly too, but this and "Joie De Vivre," a delightful light swinger, act as an aural cleanser for "Combinations." Here, the free Redman surfaces, as he and the band play an intense, harmonically static, racing track that is just long enough to show that Redman can do this too, without losing the album's balance.
The set ends with "Dewey Square," and Redman is again himself, playing rhythmically free lines against the Parker changes. The Struggle Continues
presents an artist who is a true original, putting his stamp on every note played. Redman and the band are clearly having fun, playing accessible music of the highest quality.