This will be the first album from the excellent composer and saxophonist Joshua Redman, set to be released on Blue Note. It features 13 tracks in the form of a sort of jazz opera, astonishing as well as fascinating, a timeless journey around various cities in the United States. These cities are brought to life and made vibrant by the excellent singer Gabrielle Cavassa. In addition to Joshua Redman’s magnificent and brilliant saxophone performances, this delightful project includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Brian Blade.
Redman explains that the basic concept of “Where are we” is quite simple: each song on the album either talks about or at least references a specific geographic location (city, state, or region) in the United States – songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” Count Basie’s “Going To Chicago,” Rodgers & Hart’s “Manhattan,” John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” and so on. Thus, on one level, this album is about America – both a celebration and a critique. But it is also, to varying degrees, an album of ballads, a collection of standards, a romantic desire album, a social reflection album, a melodic invention album, an improvised adventure album, a mashup album, perhaps even a tribute album of sorts.
This album includes compositions by Coltrane, Basie, etc., but also by Joshua Redman himself. The arrangements of these compositions for this project make them a beautiful appropriation by Joshua Redman. One could speak of “recomposed” works that make this project unique in its own right. It’s also a highly poetic tribute to these composers, a work that can be listened to with powerful interest. To add another perspective, Redman invited four other friends to contribute to portraits of their hometowns: guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel (“Streets of Philadelphia”) and Peter Bernstein (“Manhattan”), trumpeter Nicholas Payton (“Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”), and Ross (“Chicago Blues”). Planned and conceived during the pandemic lockdown, Redman states that “it was a dream come true to finally bring together Aaron, Joe, and Brian – three of the most lyrical and deeply groovy musicians on the planet who somehow had never played together as a rhythm section.”
“The magic of this particular gathering of musicians,” Redman continues, “is that we were able to come together from afar, converge (physically and creatively) in a specific place at a specific time, and embrace, with all our imagination and without reservation, the ethic of ‘serving the songs.’ In that sense, ‘where are we’ is perhaps above all a meditation on the power and importance of place – the unique human beauty created when we come together with others in shared physical spaces; the loss, anomie, and anguish we suffer when we are artificially and unjustly divided.”
Here, the art of beauty takes precedence, and each composition is practically a pictorial work under Redman’s fingers. Close your eyes while listening to this album, and you’ll envision the places, the colors, and even the movements. There are also the foundations of choreography in these compositions. As I contemplate returning to stage direction, I must admit that this project speaks to me, as there is material here to create a powerful, vibrant, and emotional performance.
The music born out of a pandemic period gives birth to a new “Essential” according to the editorial criteria of Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move.
PARIS-MOVE, September 18th 2023