Joshua Redman: Where Are We

The saxophonist's contribution to his leader debut on the venerated Blue Note is rather overshadowed by the prominent presence of a vocalist

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Bearing in mind this is Joshua Redman’s debut album for Blue Note it is perhaps a little strange – since he’s viewed as one of the finest saxophonists of his generation – that he should be teamed up with a vocalist. The repertoire and sizeable contribution from Gabrielle Cavassa could well indicate that the powers that be at this most respected of jazz labels had more than an eye towards sales. The leader is never reduced to a sideman on his own album but his devotees might have welcomed a more substantial contribution to the majority of the tracks.

Cavassa is present on nine of the tunes, favouring a middle register, and whilst she does nothing to jar the senses, her voice lacks the commanding presence a date such as this probably demands. Only on Stars Fell On Alabama does she engage with the leader, which by contrast gives way to the most intense and passionate reading of Coltrane’s Alabama, where the basic quartet’s talents are suitably displayed.

Elsewhere, there are some interesting amalgams: the opening track begins with the theme to Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land; Chicago Blues is a combination of Sufjan Stevens’ Chicago and the Basie/Rushing classic Goin’ To Chicago Blues in which Redman just hints at his blues credentials; and throwing some Monk into My Heart In San Francisco (indeed the Tony Bennett associated song), is an immediate ear grabber.

However, On Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?, the vocal is delivered with far too formal an edge, although the inclusion of New Orleans native Nicholas Payton is a nice enough touch. When the final track should have taken us out on a high note, we are treated to a very polite and mellow rendition of Jimmy McHugh’s Where Are You?, leading your reviewer to sense a lost opportunity, not to say disappointment.


Discography
(1) After Minneapolis (face forward mo(u)rning); (2) Streets Of Philadelphia; (3) Chicago Blues; (4) Baltimore; (1) By The Time I Get To Phoenix; (5) Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?; (6) Manhattan; (1) My Heart In San Francisco (Holiday); (1) That’s New England; (7) Alabama (intro); (1) Stars Fell On Alabama; (4) Alabama; (8) Where Are You? (59.00)
(1) Redman (ts); Gabrielle Cavassa (v); Aaron Parks (p); Joe Sanders (b); Brian Blade (d). New Orleans, 2023. (2) as (1) but add Kurt Rosenwinkel (g). (3) as (1) but add Joel Ross (vib). (4) as (1) but omit Cavassa. (5) as (1) but add Nicholas Payton (t). (6) as (1) but add Peter Bernstein (g) and omit Cavassa. (7) as (1) but Redman (ts) only. (8) as (1) but Cavassa (v, g).
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