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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Passage of Time
Warner Brothers 9362-47997-2

Praise and success came young to Joshua Redman. After winning the 1991 Thelonious Monk competition, he was seen as a leading figure of the group of young lions emerging in that period. His early albums more than justified expectations, combining boundless energy and enthusiasm with a mature confidence.

In recent years, (in common with several of his contemporaries, such as Roy Hargrove) Redman has had to build upon that initial success and consolidate it, something that never comes easy. While he has consistently produced highly enjoyable albums, he has never quite matched the youthful joy of his eponymous debut album or its successor, "Wish". And, in fairness, maybe he doesn't want to. His sights now seem set elsewhere.

On this album, as on last year's "Beyond", Redman records with his regular quartet, Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, the first time he has retained an unchanged line-up for consecutive albums. The foursome has the tightness of a working group. This is no blowing session with a one-off studio band.

The music is an extended eight-part Redman composition, commissioned by SFJazz and given its live debut on April 1st in San Francisco. The eight parts run into one another, without a break, creating one long piece that has ambitions (pretensions?) beyond those of much jazz. Redman is clearly intent on establishing his credentials as a jazz composer. ("Beyond" also consisted solely of Redman originals.) Although the piece never becomes greater than the sum of its parts, it does contain some fine melodies and haunting themes, notably Bronze and the closing theme, After.

Given the extended form of the music, and Redman's past exploits, it would be easy to have unrealistically high expectations of this album. In the event, the material provides an excellent showcase for the group. There is a free-flowing, relaxed feeling to much of the music here, and it robustly repays repeated listening. Redman's playing is as dominant and authoritative as ever. Comparisons with Coltrane are somewhat wide of the mark - Redman's solos rarely display Trane's relentless single-mindedness - but they are an accurate indicator of his pedigree. Enemies Within provides a particularly good opportunity for him to show what he is capable of, in a fluid, driving solo.

Doubtless, a psychologist would have a field day with Redman's choice of subject - time itself. (Is he mindful of his retreating youth?) On this showing, he need have no fear; his mature years promise as much as the start of his career. The album closes with a few seconds of studio chat, including an engineer saying to the band "See you cats next year." Excellent news!

John Eyles

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