Serious-minded album that gives jazz in 2009 a very good name.
Daryl Easlea 2009
Using Sonny Rollins' 1957 album, Way Out West, as a basis for his 2007 album Back East, saxophonist Joshua Redman expanded the idea of the jazz three-piece. Redman calls its follow-up, Compass, "a further exploration of the trio format . . . an expansion on, and an extension of Back East." And he's not wrong. At times, it is a dazzling album of considerable artistry. With an experienced supporting team – bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers and drummers Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson, Redman stretches the players ever further, fronting both rhythm sections and, on five of the tracks here, performing with the entire line-up in a double-trio configuration.
The extreme nature of some of the playing is always brought back to the melody line with Redman's innate sense of commercialism; we go from the relative calm of Uncharted to the free runs of Faraway and the increasingly fraught melancholy of Just Like You (one of the recordings with both trios) and back again with relative ease. The album's originals are complemented by the extemporisation of Moonlight, based on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata which beats at the album’s often sad and unsettled core. Bleak, emotional and full of gravity, Compass is the sort of serious-minded album that gives jazz in 2009 a very good name.