Catching Up with Saxophonist Joshua Redman | KNKX

Catching Up with Saxophonist Joshua Redman

Feb 12, 2018

Joshua Redman's last visit to the KNKX Seattle studios was in 2015, for a live Studio Session with the Bad Plus.  He's coming to Tacoma to perform with the University of Puget Sound Jazz Band on Wednesday night, and he recently took a few minutes to catch us up.

Joshua has been a KNKX favorite since his debut album in 1993.  His work with the SFJAZZ Collective, the groups Elastic and James Farm, and his collaborations with pianist Brad Mehldau all show his ability to keep the music fresh. 

So what's he been doing lately?

"Playing music around the world with some of my favorite musicians, and just trying to learn and grow and keep my head above water," he says.  "I've got a family, trying to raise some kids and stay sane in the process.  Things are good.  It's not easy, but it's good work."

Is the wide variety of musical configurations on his schedule something he works hard to manifest, or does it just happen?

Joshua feels that opportunities present themselves, if you're open to them.  Here are some of his upcoming projects:

"The Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio are a great piano, bass and drums trio from Luxembourg," he says.  "We were on the same bill at a festival in France, and I was really taken with their sound as a trio, they have a real identity and a real connection.  And even more so with their compositions.  They have this way of being sophisticated, from a technical standpoint, and also really melodic.  I kind of fell in love with their song-writing.  I played with them once in Luxembourg as a guest soloist, and an opportunity came up to do more stuff with them."

The Chicago Jazz Orchestra has invited him to be their guest soloist for the live world premiere of "Sophisticated Giant," a tribute to Dexter Gordon's seminal 1979 album that featured arrangements by trombonist Slide Hampton.  "I'm a huge Dexter Gordon disciple, he's been a huge influence," says Joshua.  "I thought it would be a challenging but inspiring opportunity to sink my teeth into some of his music and revisit that influence.  And the Chicago Jazz Orchestra is a fantastic band."

Joshua notes that he's also going to be doing some gigs with the string quartet, Brooklyn Rider.  "We're going to be doing some music of composer Patrick Zimmerli, and hopefully also some music of Guillermo Klein, and maybe some of our own music. "

"And then I've got a record coming out, with a band that started about a year and a half ago," he says.  "We haven't done a lot of gigs, but the gigs we've done have been very memorable.  It's a band called Still Dreaming.  It's kind of a celebration of the music of Old and New Dreams, this band that my father [legendary "free jazz" saxophonist Dewey Redman] was a part of, a band of ex-Ornette Coleman sidemen;  Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell." 

Still Dreaming is Joshua, trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade.  "We take  Old and New Dreams as a point of departure, and play some of their music and some of our own music, " says Joshua.  "That record should come out in the spring.  I'm very excited about that."

Is there anything else that he really wants to do, anything that he hasn't done yet?

"Well, every time I play, it's a chance to do something different," he says.  "Whether it's a group that I've never played with before, or musicians that I've been making music with for 20 years." 

Joshua just finished a run with his own quartet with Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums.  "We've been playing together as a quartet, on and off, for literally 20 years," he says.  "And our musical connections go back even longer than that.  We just did six nights, fourteen sets at the Blue Note, and every night, every moment was different." 

"Constant discovery, that's the beauty of this music.  If you're really committed to that improvisational ethic, it's all new, it's all fresh, it's all different.  So, yes, I'm ready for whatever the next improvisational adventure is going to bring."

"I think I'm in a phase in my life and in my music where I'm more open to saying 'yes' to a variety of projects."  says Joshua.  "I think now I'm more open to going from one kind of musical context to another completely different one, and enjoying that diversity of experience.  It does keep me on my toes, maybe it burns some new neural pathways and keeps the aging brain lubricated!"

Catch Joshua Redman's next adventure with the University of Puget Sound Jazz Band directed by Tracy Knoop on Valentine's Day, 7:30pm at Schneebeck Concert Hall on the UPS campus in Tacoma.

Robin Lloyd hosts Mid Day Jazz and Jazz Caliente on KNKX-FM.  She is a member of the Jazz Education Network, and currently serves on the board of the Jazz Journalists Association.