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Joshua Redman's 'Back East' Returns to Acoustic Roots

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It's been more than 15 years since saxophonist Joshua Redman won first prize at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. That honor proved to be a worthwhile stepping stone, as he went on to record more than 10 solo albums, including his latest, titled "Back East." As we hear from VOA's Doug Levine, Redman returns to his acoustic roots while paying tribute to some of his longtime sax heroes.

Joshua Redman hasn't worked exclusively in a trio since he graduated from Harvard University and was contemplating a career in jazz. Then came victory at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition and a life of touring and recording. He was so busy that finding just the right musicians to play just the right songs on an album like Back East was next to impossible, until now.

The title Back East is a play on "Way Out West," an album by saxophonist Sonny Rollins that also featured a "piano-less" trio. Redman revives several classics from "Way Out West," including "I'm An Old Cowhand" and "Wagon Wheels." Rollins was a major influence on Redman, as were sax greats Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane.

Back East also refers to the Eastern musical influences heard on such tracks as "India" by John Coltrane.

Joshua Redman credits his mother for introducing him to Eastern music and dance while growing up in Berkeley, California. Although his mother raised him, Joshua never lost touch with his father, famed saxophonist Dewey Redman. Dewey made his last recordings alongside Joshua on two cuts from Back East, just three months before losing his battle with liver failure last September.

Joshua leads three different trios on the album, while alternating on alto, soprano and tenor sax. His busy schedule includes a June 30 concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival, followed by a multi-city tour of Europe and Russia before returning to the U.S. August 11 to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival.

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