Recording date: March 24th-26th 2008 at Avatar Studios, New York
Release date: January 13th 2009
Availability: CD, MP3 Download, iTunes
While touring to promote his successful album "Back East", Joshua Redman found himself thinking about what further possibilities there might be for the pianoless saxophone trio format:
"Initially, my idea was to just find one trio, one drummer and one bassist, and really try to focus in on that rhythm section, on one group sound. I’d record some (of these) tunes and that would be it. But as I continued to tour, I had the opportunity to play over an extended period of time with a lot of different rhythm section combinations. At a certain point, I thought it might be interesting to mix it up a bit with this session: take two of my favorite bassists and two of my favorite drummers and try a ‘musical chairs’ kind of thing—paring each bassist with each drummer and recording in each of the four possible bass-drum combinations.”
This is the basic idea behind "Compass". The musician line up is: Joshua Redman (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone) Larry Grenadier (bass), Reuben Rogers (bass), Gregory Hutchinson (drums), Brian Blade (drums). Six tracks on the album feature a sax trio format drawn from Joshua Redman plus bass and drums chosen from selecting two of the available four musicians. But Joshua Redman also began thinking of further possibilities:
"I guess it was a couple of months before the date when it dawned on me: what would it be like with multiple bassists and drummers? What would it be like to do something with everybody in the room together? Common sense was telling me to stay away, that it had the makings of a big mess. All that bass and drums could end up sounding muddy, clumsy, directionless, unfocused. But my imagination kept leading me back to this idea, and, at a certain point I decided it was worth a try. Why not do it, schedule a day, and see what happens, with no expectations?”
Of the remaining tracks on "Compass", five feature two basses and two drummers, while a further two include two basses and one drummer, making up the thirteen track total. So, while he is returning again to the signpost laid out for the pianoless saxophone trio by Sonny Rollins with "Way Out West", Joshua Redman is experimenting with new variations on the instrumentation within this form.
There is also a new emphasis on the originality of the material:
"There are some originals on "Back East", but a lot of the tracks were my arrangements of other people’s tunes. So once we got out there and started playing as a trio, I was inspired to write a lot more."
There are nine Joshua Redman originals on the album – "Faraway", "Identity Thief", "Just Like You", "Hutchhiker's Guide", "Ghost", "Insomnomaniac", "Un Peu Fou", "Round Reuben", "Little Ditty". The remaining compositions are "Uncharted" (Redman, Grenadier, Rogers, Hutchinson), "Moonlight" (a version of "Moonlight Sonata" by Ludwig Van Beethoven), "March" (Larry Grenadier) and "Through The Valley" (Brian Blade).
And most importantly there is also a new emphasis on spontaneity:
“Sometimes I’m guilty, with my recordings, of having too clear a plan. This time I said, ‘Hey, I just have to let go.’ If I try to plan it, it’s not going to work, so I’ll just think about some tunes that we could do with everybody together, we’ll get in the studio and see how it goes. There was a real kind of release for me with this project, an embrace of the unfamiliar.”
In short, the approach worked so well that "Compass" is clearly a major statement in the development of Joshua Redman's music to date.
Another clear contender for best jazz album of the year.
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