ever heard of this guy named joshua redman? it's quite the story. he's the son of avant garde leader and tenor saxophonist dewey redman. he grew up in berkeley, listening to a bunch of heavy jazz guys while tripping on the beatles, stevie, prince, and aretha. smart cookie - graduated harvard summa cum laude (reminds of that clever line by luda in that old usher tune) and was accepted to yale law school. won the monk competition. great new face for jazz. good looking, charismatic, catchy original tunes with catchier titles, fashion sense, and a flare for the dramatic (a friend told me once that he had seen redman taking some choreography lessons which, come to think of it, isn't a bad idea for an often tired style of music).
so... what happened? when i first got into josh in '94, i picked up his self-titled album. cool tunes, nice original sound, and something i desperately needed to see & hear. folks were flipping me old recordings of bird & diz, monk, the basie band, and i wasn't feeling it. when i saw pics of josh looking all fresh and heard him doing tunes by james brown and monk mixed in with some originals, it may have been the first time that i considered jazz to be a viable style of music (don't tell my professors at the music school from that period in my life). i quickly snagged his sophomore effort wish (one of my favorites) and dug the work out of pat & charlie & billy. the pics looked stylish, the live tracks were happening, and man - his phrasing was out of this world. his sound was fat and warm, agile and flexy, youthful and wise. he geniusly paired songs by stevie and clapton with ornette and bird. he was leading this music single handedly back into relevance with a younger demographic.
i'm listening to his latest effort james farm and am reminded of how disappointed i am in how things have shaken down for joshua redman. is it him or is it me? that's a loaded question, i understand, but i am still puzzled about this. i imagine that my musical tastes and goals and beliefs have changed significantly since that first encounter with josh's musicianship, and could then only assume that his have too. maybe he wants to be more scientific. maybe he wants to slow down a bit in terms of energy. maybe he isn't interested in taking so many uncalculated risks. as a parent of two boys and someone that sees himself sliding up into higher age brackets, i can understand all of this.
is he a victim of the hype? there was a huge buzz about him when he hit the scene. he was featured all over the place - tv, magazines, festivals, movies, interviews, merch, etc. he sat in on snl sets, toured with derek trucks and jammed with umphrey's mcgee. jazz is often in need of a fresh faced messiah, and he seemed to fit the bill. lots of jazz musicians are more about their own thing than they are about reaching across the divide to the listener. josh was bestowed all sorts of honors and responsibilities, sought out and otherwise. he served as artistic director for sfjazz, a non-profit and highly influential jazz machine. is this too much all at once? maybe, but he's the perfect package.
he was tremendous early in his career, which begs several questions. was it the players? early co-conspirators included brian blade, brad mehldau, christian mcbride. the aforementioned have all blossomed into their own bandleaderships with distinctly different voices. i'm relieved to know that he is touring with brad (whom i LOVE) in a duo setting. i was also curious to hear what he sounded like with my faves the bad plus when they did a week long residency at the blue note this spring. i have it on pretty good authority that he was about as polar opposite as you could be with those guys throughout their run. is it his fault that he was set up with a counter-opposite trio, most likely as a marketing trick? sure it may have sold tickets, but i was told that it defeated the music in the process. tbp is free flowing and tight and exploratory and risky, while redman was surgical and safe and transcribable.
he is undoubtably a great guy - bright, eloquent, big sound, musical, personable, handsome, versatile. i really dig joshua redman, wish, moodswing, elastic, and a saturday night live appearance with jewel. he is his own man. i wouldn't compare him to other tenor players either. i don't view myself as an alto player, nor do i size myself up next to other altoists. i try to keep stride with ornette, derek bailey, dolphy, dave douglas, kurt, keith underwood, jaco, joan sutherland, and could care less what other alto players are up to. comparing josh to other tenor players of his time would be unfair.
my tastes have probably changed - his too - throughout our joint evolution. maybe we are simply growing apart, although that sounds like i am married to the guy. we aren't, btw.
now... with all that said... this is killing