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Joshua Redman: Compass

Joshua Redman

Sax trio albums don’t promise easy listening. Cover art for Sonny Rollins’ Way Out West, the sturdiest of the breed, braced us for a journey across arid desert terrain. Familiar tunes-“Old Cowhand” and “Solitude” for openers, “Wagon Wheels” later on-helped contour the landscape. Rhythm aces Ray Brown and Max Roach shouldered their share of the soloing burdens. Roach staked out useful landmarks, detonated releases to Rollins’ perorations, and cracked the jokes.

Joshua Redman knows the territory, having commemorated the 50th anniversary of Way Out West in 2007 with his own Back East. Provisions included “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” and “East of the Sun” for openers, “Cowhand” and “Wagon Wheels” down the trail. Compared with that Grammy-nominated outing, the larder here is conspicuously bare. No big-name saxophonists drop by, and the casual listener will thirst for more familiar melodies.

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