Joshua Redman: Takes On The Challenge of the Trio

R.J. DeLuke By

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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?

JR:At a certain point I thought about having some special guests and in particular having some saxophonists who had been big influences on me at different times in my musical development. It fit with the concept of playing the music of these great master saxophonists like Coltrane and Rollins and Shorter and Getz, who I had never met or interacted with, but were big influences. I liked the idea of bringing in some saxophonists who were huge influences, but in a more direct way. Musicians I had played with, saxophonists I had listened to and played with. I naturally thought of each of these guys. Each them is from a different generation. Each has been a big influence on me in different ways at different times.

As far as my Dad, I asked him to play a tune on my next record. I wasn't sure what he was going to say. Every time we played together before this, it was always, as it should have been, in one of his projects, in his band or on his record. I didn't know what he was going to say, but he said yes. At that point I asked Joe and Chris and they both said yes.

AAJ:That has to be one of the last recordings your father made.

JR:Yeah. I don't know that he did another recording after that. He recorded that in the middle of May [2006] and passed away very early in September.

AAJ:I know he was still out playing.

JR:Yeah, he did some gigs. I don't know that he went into the studio after that. It was the last time that we played together. It was the first time we recorded together for over ten years and the first time we played together for, I think, five. It was the last time we recorded together and played together and actually the last time I saw him until right before he passed away.

AAJ:Those two songs must have a special feel for you.

JR:Yeah. "India, that was the tune we were supposed to do. I came up with an idea for a simple arrangement that I thought would be nice for us to play together. I was really happy with the way it turned out. We both had a lot of fun. It was nice to play a Coltrane tune, which was appropriate. I really liked the interaction that happened between us.

That's true with all the saxophone players. I really tried to structure the tune so it wasn't really just about two tenor players playing a bunch of tenor player stuff. I really wanted each song in a different way, in its own way, to feel like a conversation. That worked out really well with my Dad.

"GJ was kind of a surprise. He asked to record something without me. He did it one take. I wasn't even there. I stepped out of the studio. It's a dedication to his grandson, to my son, who was born in February (2006). He had met time one time, in April. So that song, originally, I didn't know what we were going to do with it. I didn't know if I was necessarily going to put it on the album. But after he passed away, it has a lot of significance and I thought it would be a nice coda.

AAJ:The disk sounds great. You have gigs with that format?

JR:I've got a gig in Boston coming up with Christian and Brian. Right after that I go to D.C. and play four nights with Larry and Ali, then in June I start touring with Reuben and Eric, so I'm actually gigging at different times with all three rhythm sections.

AAJ:Any idea about future projects?

JR: I haven't toured that much over the last year and a half. Mostly with the Jazz Collective and that's only been about a month and a half out of the year. So I want to focus on getting back out there with the trio and playing the music, and hopefully writing some new music.

I have a lot of ideas about future projects, but I kind of don't like talking about them until I start to do them. I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I try to be in the moment as much as possible.

Selected Discography

Joshua Redman, Back East (Nonesuch, 2007)
SFJazz Collective, SFJazz Collective 2 (Nonesuch, 2006)
Joshua Redman, Momentum (Nonesuch, 2005)
SFJazz Collective, SFJazz Collective (Nonesuch, 2005)
Kurt Rosenwinkel, Deep Song (Verve, 2005)

Roy Haynes, Love Letters (Columbia, 2003)
Joshua Redman, Elastic (Warner Bros., 2002)
Yaya3, Yaya3 (Loma, 2002)
Joshua Redman, Beyond (Warner Bros., 2000)
Joshua Redman, Passage of Time (Warner Bros., 2001)
Joshua Redman, Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) (Warner Bros., 1998)
Chick Corea, Remembering Bud Powell (Stretch, 1997)
Joshua Redman, Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard (Warner Bros., 1995)
Joshua Redman, Moodswing (Warner Bros., 1994)
McCoy Tyner, Prelude and Sonata (Milestone, 1994)
Joshua Redman, Wish (Warner Bros., 1993)
Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band, Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band (Winter&Winter, 1992)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Marianne Hamann-Weiss
Bottom Photo: Ben Johnson
About Joshua Redman
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