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recording of the week,Joshua Redman - where are we

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    Posted: 28 Sep 2023 at 8:24am

recording of the week,Joshua Redman - where are we

by Barney Whittaker 
One of the most talented and talked-about players of his generation, Joshua Redman is still asking important questions about life and legacy well into the third decade of his career. Having delighted critics and listeners alike with the reappearance of his powerhouse nineties quartet on last year’s LongGone, the follow-up to the group’s initial reunification RoundAgain (2020), he now returns with where are we, his first album since signing to Blue Note earlier this year – both a conceptual interpretation of America as well as an artistic tribute to it.

Largely a self-taught musician, Redman brought himself up on a diverse array of twentieth century jazz and pop legends, not to mention the influence of his late father, free jazz pioneer Dewey Redman (1931-2006). It’s fitting then that an equally eclectic bunch of artists and songwriters make their way onto where are we’s track listing, in addition to several classy standards from the Great American Songbook that each offer their own perspective on these specific Western destinations. Most poignant is the closing ‘Alabama’ suite, which envelopes Perkins & Parish’s ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ between John Coltrane’s heartfelt tribute to the victims of the 1963 bombing in the same city.
The first notes we hear are the lonesome opening passages of ‘After Minneapolis’ which opens with a solo introduction from Redman who breathes new life into an imaginative rendition of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’, the inclusive wartime polemic that has gone on to become of of the nation’s best-loved folk songs. Following this reminiscent prelude, we are quickly introduced to the stellar lineup who will be our guides for the album’s duration, their individual personalities shining as brightly as their underlying connection with each other. The alluring vocals of Gabrielle Cavassa (the first singer to have collaborated with Redman on a project under his own name) beckon us as we embark on this musical road trip, cushioned by the soft bed of frequent sidekick Brad Mehldau’s gentle keys. This cautious dynamic soon goes through the wringer, so to speak, as the crew find themselves lost in America and striving to recover a mutual understanding through cultural affinity with its plethora of different locations and musical styles.

Human geography is an important theme and certainly one Redman wishes to engage with here, exploring the ways in which we interact with our surroundings as well as the spatial relationships between us. The bandleader largely achieves this through references, as with one example during ‘Chicago Blues’ he quotes the head from Sufjan Stevens’ own ode to the Windy City from the alternative-folk artist’s magnum opus, Illinois (2005). This album cites Bruce Springsteen (‘Streets Of Philadelphia’) and Glen Campbell (‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’), two iconic everyman figures of modern Americana in their own right – what with Campbell characterising the free yet uncertain country personification of patriotic manhood whilst Springsteen captured the image of the tired but unbroken industrial labourer. Both of these references fit nicely into the record’s narrative, their selection a testament to Redman’s storytelling in as much as they combine so neatly to inform the album’s overall message. By including this pair, Redman not only acknowledges their significance within the wider canon but also inserts himself in a knowing but humble gesture into the vast catalogue of contemporary American popular music along with them.

where are we is a delightfully self-effacing double entendre, with Redman appearing to reflect on the state of the nation by posing a question identical in its construction to the one a lost passenger might remark while reading their sat nav. He understands, however, that the map is not always the territory, as his band’s persuasive commitment to this otherwise miscellaneous bunch of tunes proves. From New England to New Orleans, the philosophical journey that takes place over the course of this album suggests the metaphorical mileage of the grand tour at its essence, even if the musicians may not have ticked all these locations off themselves in real life. Having answered his own query, Redman bounces the titular question back to us with the final track, ‘Where Are You?’, ultimately revealing more than simple navel-gazing but a creative and well-executed statement of cultural reciprocity.

where are we 

Joshua Redman

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Barney Whittaker

from www.prestomusic.com 

Edited by snobb - 28 Sep 2023 at 8:24am
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