Back East showcases saxophonist Joshua Redman as he leads a few different trios through a cerebral and muscular set of originals and standards. Redman has long evinced the influences of such similarly inclined legends as Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and John Coltrane, and Back East is no exception -- which isn't to say it's business as usual. Admittedly, while this is a straight-ahead acoustic jazz date, it is one ripe with creative energy that finds Redman's knack for deeply thoughtful improvisation and unexpected rhythmic interplay in full flower. Recorded prior to the passing of Redman's father, saxophonist Dewey Redman, in 2006, the album is dedicated in his father's memory and not only features the elder Redman alongside his son, but Redman even gives him a solo turn on the last cut. Interestingly, Back East finds Redman ruminating on alternate meanings of the title: as in the "Back East" of cities like New York and Boston or as in Eastern philosophies and religious beliefs. This leads Redman to myriad musical settings, including the funky swing of "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and the more raga-influenced and expansive post-bop of the original "Zarafah." Joining Redman here is a cadre of top-notch rhythm players, including bassists Larry Grenadier, Reuben Rogers, and Christian McBride; drummers Ali Jackson, Brian Blade, and Eric Harland; and saxophonists Chris Cheek and Joe Lovano. This CD was nominated in 2007 for a Grammy award as Best Jazz Instrumental Album (Individual or Group).
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar