Change is the only constant for the saxophonist
Joshua Redman grew up surrounded by music and other artistic endeavors, but majored in social studies at Harvard where he graduated summa cum laude. He was accepted at Yale Law School, but deferred entrance for a year. He never made it to New Haven after he began playing music with friends and earned a Grammy nomination for his self-titled debut album in 1993. Redman will play the Longworth-Anderson Series in Memorial Hall on February 17.
In retrospect, it seems inevitable that Joshua Redman would become an accomplished artist.
The son of saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff, however, navigated his own path en route to a 30-year career as a Grammy Award-nominated jazz musician that brings him to Memorial Hall Feb. 17 as part of the Longworth-Anderson Series. The tenor saxophonist, joined by Larry Grenadier on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, headlines “3X3,” a program of songs written by giants of the genre, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter.
“I love playing my original music and I continue to write, but I didn’t write much over the course of the pandemic because I have to be in a constant conversation with live performance to be engaged and inspired to have material,” Redman says. “This (3X3) is an opportunity to play some great tunes – the greatest tunes in jazz – that can be the most fertile ground for improvisational discovery and adventure.”
Redman has nurtured that fertile ground since his self-titled debut in 1993 (which featured his take on James Brown’s King Records classic “I Got You [I Feel Good]”). He earned his first Grammy nomination for that record, then formed the Joshua Redman Quartet with Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums the following year. Their work on “MoodSwing” grabbed the attention of critics and the public as well. They reunited 25 years later for “RoundAgain” in 2019 and “LongGone,” which was released last year. The latter two earned nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.
“It was an amazing experience (to reunite),” Redman says. “This was the first band of my peers and the first real band as a leader. I have played with each of them in various combinations, and played one concert in 2007 (which produced one track on “LongGone”). The three of them are of my generation … I’m lucky to have been on the ride with these geniuses.
“We’ve all grown a tremendous amount as musicians, but there is still something, a collective musical (thought) that we had found. We found a lot of things, but maybe most importantly the way we feel rhythm and the way we relate rhythmically. The groove of the band is the best term I can use. We hadn’t played together for 25 years, but it felt so natural immediately, it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is us, this is who we are, this is what we feel like.’ It felt like coming home.”
Redman didn’t stay home long before venturing out again. He denies that he changes formats (trio instead of quartet, for instance) just for the sake of change, but recognizes it provides a different opportunity.
“I would say it (change) is intentional, but in an organic and natural way,” he says. “For me, music is the one place in my life where I can truly live in the present. The rest of my life is a mess (laughs). But music is the one place where I can be fully present and engaged, and in that communion, connection and flow with others. I think I follow my natural instincts as they change and grow by being in conversation with other musicians and other human beings and traveling the world. So, I guess in that sense, yeah, I do change.
“Music brings me the ultimate satisfaction, but I’m never really satisfied, I’m never happy with the way I play. I’m happy when I play, but I’m not happy with what I play. That part of me, frankly, can be a pain in the ass, but it keeps me moving.”
Chances are Redman will be the only one in Memorial Hall this month who isn’t happy with what he plays. Everybody else will be knocked out.
The Longworth-Anderson Series presents Joshua Redman February 17 at Memorial Hall. Tickets available at the Memorial Hall website.