Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Joshua Redman, by Ron Hudson
Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman arrived on the jazz scene in the early 1990s with a sound that is both refreshing and progressive. In only a few years, his prolific yet imaginative releases have helped him develop a distinctive musical profile. Most of his groups feature other young "lions" of his generation, such as pianist Brad Mehldau and drummer Brian Blade.
Redman was born on February 1st, 1969 in Berkeley, California. Redman’s mother, Renee Shedroff, is of Jewish descent while his father, Dewey Redman, was a well respected African-American free-jazz tenor saxophonist. Redman grew up in California with his mother, where he started playing the saxophone at age ten. He attended both junior high school and high school in Berkeley County, and played saxophone in the Berkeley High jazz ensemble. Academically, Redman was a very strong student.
In 1987, Redman moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard University. While there, he studied social sciences and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991. Redman was accepted to law school at Yale University, but instead chose to take a year off and moved to New York City in the summer of 1991. While in New York City, Redman decided to forego law school and to pursue music professionally. This change in career paths was further cemented in November of 1991, when he won the annual Thelonious Monk competition.
Redman found steady work as a sideman, and in 1992 he made a memorable appearance on his father Dewey’s 1992 album Choices. The jazz world was abuzz with anticipation when the time came for Josh's first release as a leader. His 1993 Warner Brothers CD, Joshua Redman, established him as a musician with his own identity and room to move. On the release, Redman teamed up with bassist Christian McBride, drummer Greg Hutchinson, pianist Kevin Hays, and drummer Kenny Washington. It featured several of Redman’s original compositions as well as his take on such jazz standards as “Body and Soul” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts.”
Redman quickly followed this with his second release, Wish. On this album, Redman fused his talents with three well-known and respected musicians; guitarist Pat Metheny, drummer Billy Higgins, and bassist Charlie Haden. The album featured several of Redman’s original songs including “Soul Dance.” The album also featured covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Make Sure You’re Sure” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven.” The album featured ten cuts, eight of which were tracked in the studio and two, “Wish” and “Blues for Pat,” were recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York City.
The saxophonist released his third album for Warner Brothers in 1994, entitled Moodswing. This album featured some of jazz music’s most promising and rising talent, drummer Brian Blade and pianist Brad Mehldau, along with Christian McBride on bass. This release captured a very lively, active, and swinging rhythm section which rivaled any section playing at the time.
Also in 1994, Redman appeared on harmonica player Toots Thielmans’ East Coast West Coast. Redman can be heard on John Coltrane’s "Naima," along with John Scofield on guitar, Lyle Mays on piano, and Christian McBride on bass.
In 1995, Redman toured in support of Moodswing and during the week of March 21st, recorded his quartet during their engagement at the Village Vanguard. Featured in Redman’s quartet were pianist Peter Martin, bassist Christopher Thomas, and drummer Brian Blade. The recorded culminated in the Warner Brothers release Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard, which include Sonny Rollins’s “St. Thomas" and “My One and Only Love." Also in 1995, Redman appeared on tenor saxophonist Marc Turner’s debut album Mark Turner and a fascinating counterpoint between the tenor stylists can be heard on the song “317 East 32nd Street," an homage to pianist Lennie Tristano and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh.
Redman’s next album, Freedom in the Groove, featured Brian Blade on drums, Peter Bernstein on guitar, and Christopher Thomas on bass. This album marked a departure for the tenor saxophonist. This album focused very heavily on funk and R&B and also served as the platform for Redman’s debut on alto saxophone. The addition of Bernstein’s guitar helped to open up the work of the rhythm section and provided a more cohesive foundation for Redman.
In 1998, Redman recorded his sixth album for Warner Brothers, the aptly titled Timeless Tale (For Changing Times). This album featured Redman along with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Brian Blade reinterpreting classic songs in the American songbook. The quartet is heard on such songs as George Gershwin’s “Summertime." In 2000, Redman released his seventh album for Warner Brothers, entitled Beyond. The songs featured on this album were all composed by Redman. The album explored many different facets including time changes and different melodic structures. It featured pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Greg Hutchinson.
In 2001, Redman released Passage of Time, which featured the same lineup as Beyond. In 2002, he released his most exploratory album for Warner Brothers, Elastic, which was also his last for the label. The album showcased the saxophonist along with keyboardist Sam Yahel and drummer Brian Blade. The album was interesting because the trio used a system of bass loops when recording and touring for the album. Redman also played a significant amount of keyboards on the record, on tracks which include “Jazz Crimes" and “News from the Front.”
In 2004, Redman began an affiliation with the San Francisco Jazz Collective. The group chooses a jazz composer and performs works of this artist throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Redman worked as artistic director for the group until 2007.
In 2005, Redman released his first album for Nonesuch Records entitled Momentum. This album was based on the same foundation laid down by Redman’s previous release. It featured Yahel on keyboards, Jeff Ballard and Brian Blade on drums, and special guests Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass and Questlove, from the hip-hop band the Roots, on drums. In 2007, Nonesuch released its second album by Redman, Back East. The album represents another experiment for the saxophonist. It was his first album recorded with just bass and drums. It featured many of the usual suspects found on his previous releases plus special guests saxophonist Joe Lovano and his father Dewey, who passed away not long after its release.
Today, Redman lives in the San Francisco area with his wife. He has also performed music to the soundtracks of several Clint Eastwood movies including Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Space Cowboys.
Select Discography as Joshua Redman
as Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman (Warner, 1993)
Wish (Warner, 1993)
Moodswing (Warner, 1994)
Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard (Warner, 1995)
Freedom in the Groove (Warner, 1996)
Times Tales (For Changing Times) (Warner, 1998)
Beyond (Warner, 2000)
Passage of Time (Warner, 2001)
Elastic (Warner, 2002)
Momentum (Nonesuch, 2005)
Back East (Nonesuch, 2007)
Contributor: Jared Pauley