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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joshua Redman

Walking Shadows (Nonesuch)

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Neutering his formidable tenor honks, saxophonist Joshua Redman enters the lush, swirling, Brad Mehldau-spiked, John Mayer-covering, between-floors world of orchestral jazz on his latest album. Walking Shadows is all sweeping, dramatic compositions; an unfortunately reigned-in Brian Blade on the skins; and enough strings to do Bach.

Predictably, it all sums up to the grandiose vibe of cinema with a churning emotional build here (“Easy Living”), a rainy day denouement there (“Infant Eyes”), the moment of epiphany (“Last Glimpse of Gotham”) and even the appropriately named closer “Let Me Down Easy,” which feels like end credits. The problem is, without any visual story, it feels like Rodgers without Hammerstein (who gets covered too). And then there’s the like of “Final Hour”—surely subtle, but still seemingly meant to haunt an elevator operator’s most endless days.

With more than a dozen albums under his sax strap, Redman has most likely earned the right to follow whatever trend or fancy comes his way. But there’s the question of whether he's still trying to reconcile being a relatively young dude from the West Coast who, at his best, swings the late night sounds of ’50s New York City. Then again, maybe he and longtime buddy and co-conspirator Mehldau are simply trying to remove testicular fortitude from modern jazz altogether.