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Joshua Redman: Takes On The Challenge of the Trio

By Published: May 28, 2007
JR:Yeah. Originally when I started working on the material, I was focusing mostly on original compositions. Then I had this burst of inspiration to arrange those Sonny Rollins Songs from Way Out West. After I was done I felt ... not satisfied, but like: Wow. I can do this now. I can take these songs that were recorded and played by these iconic saxophone players and do them in a way that wasn't just repetition, re-creation. I could do them in a way where I felt I could really have my own sound and identity through them.

Once I did the Sonny Rollins songs, it opened the door to involving myself musically with some of my other saxophone influences, so I decided to do a Coltrane ["India ] song and the Wayne Shorter song ["Indian Song ]. "East of the Sun, West of the Moon, even though Stan Getz didn't write it, it's a song I associate with him. I know it from a record he did called West Coast Jazz (Universal, 1955), which also fell into this east-west concept.

This idea of influences, saxophone influences in particular, became a part of the project. Through that I was inspired to ask some great saxophonists who I knew, who were influences—my father and Chris Speed and Joe Lovano—to play with me.

It started because I just wanted to do a trio record. Little by little these other concepts started to emerge to the point where there are so many different layers. It's nice. I've always shunned the idea of a concept record, in the sense that I never want the concepts to dictate the music, I want the concepts to flow from the music. In this sense I kind of felt like they did. But in the end, the only value, if there is value, is the music itself.

AAJ:How much time do you spend writing? Is it difficult? Is it something that you do just when you feel it? Or can you sit down and write when you have to on a deadline?

JR:Yes. [laughs]. I don't have a method. When I started working on the music for this project, some of the music was already written. But there were a few months when I kind of created all of the music, whether it was original or arranged. It came in that burst. With writing it comes in waves for me sometimes. I'll go through long periods when I don't write anything, and then I might have a burst of creativity, or I feel inspired or focused to do that.

I'm starting to realize that writing doesn't necessarily have to be this mystical creative process that I used to think it was. I used to think, "I can't write anything until I'm inspired. And I can't summon inspiration. So it just kind of has to happen when it happens. Part of me still feels like that, but a part of me also feels like part of it is just making the commitment to write. If I say I'm going to just sit down and write, that doesn't really mean I'm going to sit down and immediately write this incredible tune, but... Part of it is just the process, committing yourself to the process, and through the process you'll find something. I might start writing a tune that may get jettisoned, but there's some kernel that comes out of it; it becomes the seed for something else.

If I want to be more prolific as a writer, it's kind of simple. I just have to write more. [laughs].

AAJ:Which isn't always easy.

JR:: Which isn't. Especially when you have a kid.

AAJ:I know that...The rhythm sections you picked, you know them and have played with them. Was it a certain feel you wanted from them? Why did you pick them?

JR:I picked each rhythm section first of all because individually, these guys are among my favorite musicians. But also because I had played with each rhythm section a fair amount in different contexts. I'd also played with of them in trio. They're all great and they're all very different. I like the idea of a variety of sounds and approaches for this record. I still wanted it to be very focused, and hopefully it is. But because it's such a simple format from an instrumental standpoint, one of the challenges is having variety, having different tunes sound and feel different. Because when you don't have the chords, you sometimes run the risk of everything sounding the same. I like the idea of having these different flavors and this variety. I thought having different rhythm sections would help. I knew each one would have a unique approach and hopefully bring something exciting to it.

AAJ:Joe Lovano, Chris Speed and your father, how was that planned? Especially with your father. Did you say, "Yeah. I want him to be on this record, or did it evolve differently?

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