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Joshua Redman: Passage of Time

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illustration of Joshua Redman and Eric Alexander

Only hype and the good fortune of winning the 1991 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition has elevated Joshua Redman ahead of fellow tenor player, and second-place finisher, Eric Alexander. Both are outstanding young players who have grown up musically in public, and on albums, though they’ve both hit some big potholes along the jazz road. Their two new albums, however, show that road is evening out.

Redman and Alexander are outstanding technicians, but the former has been far more diverse in his choice of material. His seven previous Warner Bros. releases have blended tunes by James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton alongside hard bop, uptempo, ballads and the occasional outside forays. Redman’s original pieces, however, haven’t been consistently exciting, but they do show a willingness to mix light melodies, soul grooves and funk beats with challenging arrangements. Alexander, meanwhile, has stayed with more traditional compositional models on his various Criss Cross and Delmark CDs, playing show tunes, blues, blowing showcases and Afro-Latin items. Like Redman, Alexander has yet to demonstrate much flair for songwriting, though his work on his 2000 release, The First Milestone (Milestone), indicated substantial growth.

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