Redman's previous CD, 2007's Back East, was front-loaded with high-concept expectations. It was about the saxophone-trio tradition, it was about Sonny Rollins, it was about Joshua's father, Dewey. Compass is, to borrow a Rollins phrase, an open sky.
Here Redman works with a "double trio" — bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers, drummers Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson — in various combinations, five tunes out of the 13 with everybody. There's no obvious precedent, and the session shows Redman at his best as he mixes funky riff-based bop themes with looser, free-form meditations, sometimes within the same tune.
The opener, the two-minute "Uncharted," is like an invocation, a couple of querying descending half-steps on tenor sax joined by spare, assenting phrases from the two basses at opposite sides of the soundstage and some ruminative drum clatter. Then the band are off into the vamp-driven minor mode of "Faraway." All the pieces are originals (except for one based on Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata), and there are nods to the past (especially on "Round Reuben," with its bebop pastiche and "Tenor Madness" vibe), but this album is about responding in the moment.
JOSHUA REDMAN DOUBLE TRIO | Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave, Boston | January 22 at 8 pm | $36-$41 | 617.931.2000 or ticketmaster.com