Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Jazz, Jazz Instrument, Modern Creative, Post-Bop, Straight-Ahead Jazz, Saxophone Jazz, Orchestral Jazz
A blues guitarist once told me that, when judging the musicianship of others, he always paid close attention to how they finished their notes. This rule of thumb echoed around my brain as I watched two saxophones duke it out late one night at a club in my hometown. They played fast, they played with groove, but their notes were not pure from start to finish.
Joshua Redman's 2013 album, Walking Shadows, is a lush orchestral album featuring the saxophonist backed by a large symphonic ensemble. From Charlie Parker's string recordings in the '50s, to Miles Davis' large-ensemble recordings with Gil Evans in the '60s, to Wynton Marsalis' 1984 album Hot House Flowers, there is a long tradition of jazz musicians framing themselves in the warm, classical tones of a string orchestra. Here, Redman positions himself within this continuum with an album that frames his articulate, harmonically sophisticated saxophone style with immaculately produced arrangements from Dan Coleman, Patrick Zimmerli, and pianist Brad Mehldau.
How do you characterize an album in which current musical prodigies take on some of the greatest musicians who ever lived? Jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman has the answer. The appropriately-titled Walking Shadows is Redman’s latest, a quartet album with an orchestra ensemble. Produced by pianist/genius Brad Mehldau, the album, Redman’s fourth album for Nonesuch as a leader, also features prolific jazz bassist Larry Grenadier, frequent collaborator Brian Blade on drums, and composer/publisher Dan Coleman as the orchestral conductor.
US saxophonist Josh Redman is partnered on this ballad set by an orchestra and a gold-standard trio featuring pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade. Walking Shadows is just as persuasively played as its postbop-to-world music predecessor, James Farm, but a tracklist of well-known tunes should broaden its appeal. A gospelly and then funky Let It Be stretches Redman's rugged inventiveness on tenor; a spacious, tonally pristine Bach Adagio – mostly in conversation with just Grenadier's bass – benefits from its simplicity.