Joshua Redman ‘Compass’ (Nonesuch) 3/5

Similar to fellow tenorist Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman has now entered mid-career territory and has been exploring different aspects of the tenor on recent albums as illustrated on ‘East’. On his latest album he returns to more familiar ground on this trio-led outing which recalls the mid-late 1950s recordings of Sonny Rollins in format. Unquestionably this is accomplished playing and Redman is ably assisted by bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers and drummers Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson. Redman has largely opted for self-penned compositions, but unlike Garrett in a studio setting, these do not always exude the same warmth that one might expect from a normally soulful saxophonist. Mournful is the word that springs to mind on hearing the somewhat austere version of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight (Sonata)’ and Redman’s own pieces ‘Ghost’ and the bop-inflected ‘Round Reuben’ leave one feeling somewhat downbeat. Where the trio collectively shine are on ballads such as ‘Just like you’ and ‘Little Ditty’ where the blues are certainly not forgotten and prove to be uplifting. As with other premier contemporary jazz artists, Redman’s skill at playing extended and intricate notes has never been in question. However, his ability to communicate in a soulful manner does require further reflection.

Tim Stenhouse