In the early to mid-'90s, no "Young Lion" was hyped to death by jazz critics more than Joshua Redman; to hear some critics tell it, he was as important a saxophonist as John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, or Sonny Rollins. The problem with such excessive hype is that it gives a young talent like Redman way too much to live up to at an early age; the tenor man was only 22 when this self-titled debut album was recorded, and he needed time to grow and develop. Nonetheless, Redman did show a lot of promise on this CD, which isn't in a class with Coltrane's A Love Supreme or Rollins' Saxophone Colossus (some critics really did have the audacity to make such claims) but showed Redman to be a swinging, expressive improviser who had impressive technique as well as versatility. Redman's playing is greatly influenced by funky, big-toned soul-jazz tenors like Eddie Harris, Gene Ammons, and Red Holloway, but his probing, searching qualities bring to mind Coltrane. Redman's gritty soul-jazz workout on James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" demonstrates that he isn't a stuffy neo-conservative, while his enjoyable interpretations of "Body and Soul" and Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" illustrate his ability to play "in the tradition," as hard boppers are fond of saying. Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" is pure bop, and Redman (whose acoustic support on this album includes pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson) gets into a Coltrane-influenced post-bop groove on his own "Sublimation." Joshua Redman isn't a masterpiece, but it let us know that he was certainly someone to keep an eye on.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson