May 13, 2019. Joshua Redman is like the Kobe Bryant of saxophonists. All the pedigree, all the pressure, all the hype and—no doubt—all the people who would’ve preferred he not live up to it.
In the nearly 30 years since Redman won the Monk sax competition, through all the insipid overrated/underrated conversations, all that the versatile Redman has continued to do is record and tour—with Brad Mehldau, with The Bad Plus, and even with Phish-inspired jam band, Umphrey’s McGee.
On Come What May, Redman’s back in the studio with a quartet that last recorded together in 2001—you’ll be glad you waited for this one.
Which is more than just a little misleading, since this quartet has toured plenty together over the past two decades. And it shows. The chemistry, the feel these guys have for playing together, jumps right off the record.
Redman is in constant concert with pianist Aaron Goldberg (see the second track, “I’ll Go Mine”), and Reuben Rogers (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums) round out a rhythm section that is nothing short of superior. Each instrumentalist, in due course, has his moments of dizzying individual virtuosity, but you’ll never catch one in a rush to get there—the mark of a well-adjusted quartet.
Of course it’s Redman’s name that looms largest, and Dewey’s son does not disappoint. Each of the album’s seven tunes is a Redman original, as stylistically diverse a set as the various groups Redman tours with.
The opener, “Circle of Life,” is an ethereal, surrealistic waltz that, true to its name, goes in a circle in a way that, for Belá Fleck fans, may recall “The Great Circle Route” from Tales from the Acoustic Planet.
The title track, situated in the album’s middle, could just as easily be its closer. “Come What May,” shot through with R&B sensibility, feels like a closing theme. It’s here where Redmond’s playing might be at its most soulful, his tenor sound a friendly arm around the listener’s shoulder. Reuben Rogers, no less sensitive, is, at the same time, particularly commanding on bass here, anchoring the tune and soloing with distinction.
“How We Do” and “DGAF” ratchet the energy back up. The former presents the ever-elusive combination of catchiness and sophistication that makes record companies’ jobs easy—no doubt this would be the first single off the album. Redman’s had a knack for this type of composition—writing tunes that other jazz musicians will invariably come to love covering and expanding upon—since penning “The Deserving Many,” for 1993’s Wish.
“DGAF” is just as intoxicating and makes its way into the bloodstream with even greater alacrity, as a latin-tinged, klezmer-flavored hook overlays the main attraction here, Greg Hutchinson surgically turning his drum kit into a pile of ashes.
Enjoy carefully, this album may be warm to the touch.