Joshua Redman's sophomore effort found him leading a piano-less quartet that also included guitar great Pat Metheny and half of Ornette Coleman's trailblazing late-'50s/early-'60s quartet: acoustic bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins. With such company, Redman could have delivered a strong avant-garde or free jazz album; Haden and Higgins had played an important role in jazz's avant-garde because of their association with Coleman, and Metheny had himself joined forces with Coleman on their thrilling Song X session of 1985. But Wish isn't avant-garde; instead, it's a mostly inside post-bop date that emphasizes the lyrical and the introspective. The musicians swing hard and fast on Charlie Parker's "Moose the Mooche," but things become very reflective on pieces like Redman's "The Undeserving Many" and Metheny's "We Had a Sister." One of the nice things about Redman is his ability to provide jazz interpretations of rock and R&B songs. While neo-conservatives ignore them and many NAC artists simply provide boring, predictable, note-for-note covers, Redman isn't afraid to dig into them and show their jazz potential. In Redman's hands, Stevie Wonder's "Make Sure You're Sure" becomes a haunting jazz-noir statement, while Eric Clapton's ballad "Tears in Heaven" is changed from moving pop/rock to moving pop-jazz. The latter, in fact, could be called "smooth jazz with substance." Some of bop's neo-conservatives disliked the fact that Redman was playing with two of Coleman's former sidemen and a fusion icon like Metheny, but then, Redman never claimed to be a purist. Although Wish isn't innovative, it's an appealing CD from an improviser who is willing to enter a variety of musical situations.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson