The Joshua Redman has been my favorite contemporary tenor saxophonist even before I knew I had one, back when I didn't think I liked jazz because I couldn't understand it. It pains me a little to say it but credit must be given to the Rolling Stone magazine for their review of his Freedom In The Groove LP. That review and, well, if I'm completely honest, his name and the fact I attempted saxophone as a kid made me curious enough to gamble on a jazz record back when I didn't do that. It didn't immediately make me a jazz fan but it did make me a fan of his, which I've remained ever since.
Come What May was released a couple months ago and I told myself I was going to get around to it but I got distracted. I recently streamed it and ordered my copy before I'd finished my first listen. The album arrived yesterday and I was both excited and maybe just a touch concerned. You know how sometimes you get really excited the first time you listen to a record and then after a little time has passed you can't remember exactly what you were on about?
Not a problem here.
Come What May is as good as I thought it was and subsequent listens have been revelatory. The number of jazz records with virtuosic ensemble playing, solos, and thrilling improvisation is staggering. It is far rarer to do what Redman and company do here and exhibit their skill at all of the above over a scant seven songs and 43 minutes. Redman's compositions allow for inspired complementary playing as well as ample opportunity for the instrumentalists to demonstrate their improvisational talents without overwhelming the song or degenerating into an excessive, indulgent mess.
Redman and pianist Aaron Goldberg are in fantastic form through the record, whether on beautiful opening song "Circle of Life" or the lovely title track. Goldberg moves easily from rhythm to soloist while Redman superbly establishes and expands his melodies and themes. Tempo and mood changes with ease
"Stagger Bear" is the high point of the record where not only to Redman and Goldberg shine but drummer Gregory Hutchinson fires propulsive, muscular flurries near the end of the song. The album closes with the elegant and aptly titled "Vast," completing a satisfying listen that makes you eager to start the cycle of song all over again.