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May 15, 2013From Charlie Parker to Duke Ellington to Wynton and Branford Marsalis, from Stan Getz and George Benson to Michel Petrucciani, even Sonny Rollins so many jazz soloists of genius or near-genius seem to put together an obligatory album in which they are accompanied by a kind of violin soup. And this is Redman's. It's in many ways sublime: Redman is one of the most accomplished and most American of jazz artists; his inventiveness seems unlimited. Not only that but his many albums demonstrate a technique that makes it possible to hear in his melodic lines the influence of so many great 20th century artists from the 60s onwards but to hear them absorbed, reworked, re-examined in a way that is totally 21st century and totally progressive. Seeing him in concert is a complete joy. He plays standards and originals and Beatles tunes with the same brilliance, the same panache, the same originality.
Thus he can never make a bad album. But the lush backing arrangements on this one (over which he plays some completely peerless lines, for example on Billy Strayhorn's beautiful sequence, Lush Life) are reminiscent of the overblown arrangements on 50s versions such as that of Nat King Cole or the Buddy RIch Big Band. But did he really need to join the easy-listening brigade? Possibly. Royalties from 'background music' (I never understood that phrase: what is music? Wallpaper?) in Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Starbucks? Certainly. Brilliant? Definitely. Timely and tasteful? Hmmm, not sure.… Expand