Feb 1, 2019
Much like was said about Bruce Springsteen 15 years earlier, it sometimes seems that if Joshua Redman had not existed, the jazz press would have had to make him up. The story is too perfect – the son of noted African-American jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer/librarian Renee Shedroff who was, the daughter of Polish Immigrant Jews, picks up the clarinet and saxophone before his tenth birthday, and excels at both. He listens to earth, Wind & Fire and Led Zeppelin as often as he hears John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. He stars as part of the award-winning Berkeley (CA) High School Jazz Ensemble, but chooses to go to Harvard to study Social Studies rather than music. Graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1991, he is accepted at Yale Law School, but defers admission for one year to hang with friends in Brooklyn. He quickly becomes immersed in the New York jazz scene, and begins gigging with legends that played with his father, like Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, while carving out a place for himself in a new generation of young lions like Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Brad Mehldau and Mark Turner. That year, he wins the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, and puts the law behind him to begin recording on his own with Warner Brothers. By the spring of 1993, he has released his first record, and received his first Grammy nomination.
For the next 25 years, Joshua Redman has been one of the leading players, composers and visionaries in the world of jazz. The 18 albums he has released under his name (20 if you count two as a member of James Farm) have shown him able to make memorable music with every type of band. From classic Trios, Quartets and Quintets, to piano-less groups, to the groove-oriented Elastic Band to recording long-form composition and music with strings, Redman is an artist whose every move is worth serious consideration.
His arrival as an artist coincided with my own deeper discovery of jazz. As a result, he has always been one of my leading lights in the music. I’ve had the pleasure to see him perform live with a number of different groups and settings, the last time with the Still Dreaming Band at the Newport Jazz Festival this past summer. One of the first dates I took my now-wife Nancy on was to see Joshua at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. She came in a confirmed non-jazz fan. She left – well not a true believer, but moved at the musical possibilities that Redman and his quartet showed her.
Podcast 660 celebrates the 50th birthday of Joshua Redman with an hour plus of music from across his recorded career. I could fill up another hour on his sideman credentials, but that’s for another time. Enjoy these musical selections, many of which are my favorite Redman tunes, beginning with the first track on his debut album:
“Blues on Sunday” from Joshua Redman
“Make Sure You’re Sure” from Wish
“Chill” from Moodswing
“Cat Battles” from Freedom in the Groove
“Last Rites of Rock ‘n Roll” from Beyond
“Jazz Crimes” from Elastic
“I’m an Old Cowhand” from Back East
“Final Hour” from Walking Shadows
“Soul Dance” from Trios Live
“Friend or Foe” from The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
“St. Thomas” from Spirit of the Moment – Live at the Village Vanguard