Label: Nonesuch, 2019
Personnel - Joshua Redman: tenor saxophone; Aaron Goldberg: piano; Reuben Rogers: bass; Gregory Hutchinson: drums.
Renowned American saxophonist Joshua Redman certainly knows how to make a quartet sound great. And he currently leads more than one. The recently formed Still Dreaming group - with cornetist Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Brian Blade - made its debut last year with satisfying results, but what we have in hands now is the third outing (the first in nearly two decades) from his older quartet. Besides Redman, Come What May features Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. It’s hard to say which of the quartets sounds better, but it’s not so difficult to conclude that none of them is a redundant entry in the saxophonist’s impressive discography.
The cleverly-written “Circle of Life” opens the record exhibiting meticulous bass-piano unisons before settling into a propulsive, spirited, and mesmerizing 3/4 groove. Redman’s compositional inspiration strikes in the form of colorful layers and ostinato-fueled interactions, and his vibrant solo benefits from the impeccable support of the tight-knit rhythm team.
Goldberg, in particular, approaches the music with a lot of heart, which seems to give extra motivation to his colleagues in the rhythm section. That’s perceivable on the gently funkified “I’ll Go Mine”, where his marvelously dissonant chords band together with Hutchinson’s cool backbeat. Expertise and enlightenment are important aspects in the improvisations from piano and sax, with the soloists putting extra effort into a thrilling vamp accentuated by Redman's bracing phrases and Goldberg’s wide capacity to counterpoint.
Also incorporating a vamp, yet not at its tail end, “DGAF” boasts an argumentative folk melody that manages to clear some space for the drummer’s conversational fills. Ambling with a similar energy, the rhythmically elaborated “What We Do” is melodically dependent on a candid bluesy riff subjected to parallel movements. This is pure post-bop elasticity with shifts in key and swinging demand.
By allying sheer muscle and elegance within a refined eclectic posture, “Stagger Bear” provides one of the most exciting moments on the album. It upholds punctilious bass movements hand-in-hand with the pianist’s fairly active left hand, variable drumming intensities with segmented rock muscle, a soulful hip-hop piano vibe, and sax-piano staccatos. Saxophonist and pianist alternate bars throughout, showing that they speak the same language.
Both the title track and the closing number, “Vast”, are ballads of different nature. Whereas the former is a typical brushed waltz, the latter uses the curved shape of its melody and arpeggiated piano texture to immerse us in a sublime spiritual mood. Redman’s piercing notes yields a musical epiphany to be revisited.
This formidable body of work not only shows how mature this quartet grew throughout the years, but also how Redman strengthened and deepened his sound and style.
02 - I’ll Go Mine ► 06 - Stagger Bear ► 07 - Vast