A collaboration between saxophonist Joshua Redman, forward-thinking chamber string ensemble Brooklyn Rider, and composer Patrick Zimmerli, 2019's Sun on Sand is a kinetic, richly attenuated album that straddles the line between jazz and modern classical. The album is comprised of eight compositions culled from a suite by Zimmerli which he and Redman originally premiered in London in 2014. Zimmerli, a jazz-trained saxophonist himself who has garnered acclaim for his hybrid orchestrations, previously supplied orchestral arrangements for Redman on his 2013 album Walking Shadows, and for Brooklyn Rider on their similar collaboration with vocalist Anne Sofie von Otter, 2016's So Many Things. He's also worked on projects with luminaries like the Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau, Ben Monder, and others. Consequently, as a composer, he brings a wide-ranging ear to Sun on Sand, ably straddling the line between exploratory modern creative jazz and more highly structured classical soundscapes. Also joining Redman are his equally talented rhythm section bandmates bassist Scott Colley and drummer Satoshi Takeishi; the latter of whom is also a longtime Zimmerli associate going back to the '90s. The opening "Flash" is a brisk, spiraling piece with Redman playing a serpentine melody against an equally gyroscopic string section, bringing to mind a genre-bending mix of Sonny Rollins-meets-Aaron Copland-meets-Steve Reich. The rest of the album is just as engaging, as Redman wails through falling shards of sharp orchestral glass on "Dark White," glides bird-like through Brooklyn Rider's falling spring rain on "Soft Focus," and arises with mournful lyricism through the ensemble's deeply colored orchestral drones on "Starbursts and Haloes." The most impressive aspect of Sun on Sand is how balanced the collaboration feels. Redman has the facility and sound to carry the music, but Brooklyn Rider offer a deeply textured counterpoint, while Zimmerli's expansive voice remains ever present.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar