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Dewey Redman: The Sound of a Giant

By Published: December 15, 2003

"I knew Miles [Davis]. Once in a while, I'd meet him. He never called me Dewey. It was always, 'Hey, muthafucka.' [laughter]. I remember one time I saw him and I found out his middle name was Dewey. I ran up to him and said, 'Hey, Dewey, how you doin?" And he said, [in perfect Miles gravel-voiced imitation], 'Don't ever call me no shit like that.' But he was a great guy.

"I had a chance to meet John Coltrane in San Francisco. One night I went on this gig. I asked him if I could come talk to him and he told me, yes. I had three or four sessions with him, just one-on-one. I learned a lot from him. He's the most spiritual person I've ever known. He didn't talk much, but he had this calmness. He was a great artist. I came to New York in October of 1967 and he passed in August of 1967, so I never got to renew the relationship. But he helped me out a lot. I've been very fortunate."

He's survived the ride and made it to the status of elder statesman for the music, in the good company of those like Rollins, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and some others. And in his very talented son, Joshua, he has a link to the next wave of fine players.

Redman is justifiably proud of Joshua. But in today's world the younger players get more magazine covers and more media and record company hype than most older players, even players younger than Dewey Redman, who have paid their dues and are excellent artists. It's created some odd situations for Redman.

"Sometimes people come up to me and say, 'How's your son doing?' I say, 'What son?' They look at me very puzzled, then I say, 'I got you, didn't I.' Then they laugh. But I'm very proud of him," he says. "From time to time, people do come up to me and say, 'You Dewey Redman? You Joshua Redman's father? Didn't you used to play music?' About six or seven years ago, this guy in Europe — Belgium, I think — came up after we played and had a couple of Joshua CDs and said, 'Can you sign these and sign Joshua Redman. This one is for my wife. He's her favorite musician. Can you sign it Joshua Redman?' Oh man. I can't even tell you what I said."

But the elder Redman is comfortable with who he is and confident in his abilities. He sums up his son's success thusly: "He's a very talented young man. Very well spoken and plays his ass off. I'm better, but he's gotten all the things I never got. I'm not jealous, just a little bit envious. But I'm very proud of him."

Straight to the point and genuine.

As for the future? "I'm just staying alive, you know? Whatever is next. I'm finally getting some recognition. In Fort Worth this summer the mayor issued a proclamation for Ornette and me and Roland Shannon Jackson. And I was the headliner at the Fort Worth Jazz Festival. The first one, as a matter of fact. I was very proud of that. I was nervous as hell. I'm still here and I'm still trying."

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