An icon of the Young Lions generation, and the
son of Dewey Redman (another icon, in this case from the
free jazz generation), Joshua Redman has again changed the
path of his career with a sax, bass and drums trio recording.
Back East marks a certain contrast with his previous
project, the electric Elastic Band, and shows a different
concept from that of the San Francisco Jazz Collective,
to which he devoted almost four years.
On November 10th, Arturo Mora had the chance to talk shortly
on the phone to Joshua Redman from Budapest (Hungary) while
the tenor saxophonist was in the middle of his European
ARTURO MORA: I would like you to talk a bit about your
new record Back East. Why a trio record?
JOSHUA REDMAN: Well, why not? [laughs] It’s something
that I wanted to do for quite some time, because some of my
early experiences learning to play jazz were in that setting,
in a trio setting without a pianist. When I was living in
Boston hanging out a lot with people from Berklee College
of Music and doing Conservatory played a lot of jam sessions
and little gigs, often in trio, without pianist. And then
when I moved to New York also a lot of the early jam sessions
and gigs I did were in that form. And I’ve been a
big fan, obviously, of some great saxophone projects that
were done, especially Sonny Rollins, he was one of the most
So it’s something
that I wanted to do for a long time but really didn’t
feel that I was ready until now, and sometimes I still don’t
think I’m ready [laughs], but it’s a very, very
challenging format to play in, without a pianist or without
a chordal instrument. You’re really out bare and exposed,
and with tremendous focus on concentration and stamina, but
it’s also a very liberating context. When things are
going right it can be very inspiring, and the music can go
in many unexpected directions.
ARTURO MORA: You’ve mentioned Sonny Rollins.
In Back East you play two tunes he recorded in Way
Out West. Is it right to consider Sonny Rollins, along
with John Coltrane, as your biggest influence?
JOSHUA REDMAN: Yes. I’ve been influenced
by so many tenor saxophonists: Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane,
my father Dewey Redman, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Wayne
Shorter, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Ben Webster, ... The list
could go on and on. I hate to figure out just two, but if
I have to, yes, they would probably be Sonny Rollins and John
Coltrane. They are two of the most important and the most
influential and I think pretty much every saxophonist who
came after them was influenced by both of them in some way.
ARTURO MORA: Some Eastern influences can be
heard in “Zarafah”, the third track of the record.
May Yusef Lateef have been another influence there?
JOSHUA REDMAN: Well, it’s funny you should
mention that, because although I don’t count Yusef Lateef
as one of my primary influences, because I haven’t heard
a lot of his music, I do remember listening to some early
Cannonball Adderley record (when I was very young my mum had
a lot of Cannonball Adderley records), and I remember a live
one in particular with Yusef Lateef on it. He was an amazingly
soulful and creative saxophonist. He obviously embraced Eastern
sound, you know he had that record called Eastern Sounds,
which I don’t know that well. I wouldn’t say he
has a direct influence on the project or on me, but he certainly
is an influence.
I think that those
Eastern sounds manifest themselves in this project, but they
have more to do with my non-jazz influences. When I was very
young my mum took me to that place called the Center For World
Music, she took me to a lot of African music, Indonesian,
Indian music and dance concerts, Middle-Eastern music... so
when I was young I was exposed to all of those sounds, and
I think, even thought I never study that music and don’t
have any formal understanding of it, I think that these influences
are obviously there and, for some reason, with this project
they came out, and I think that’s probably because there
is no harmonic instrument, and Western music, whether you’re
talking about classical, jazz, pop, whatever... is so heavily
defined by harmony in a Western approach to harmony, you know,
very, very logical, mathematical, beautiful, Western harmony
is amazing, I love it, but I think in this context without
a harmonic instrument there maybe some of those Eastern influences
could come through in a more obvious way.
ARTURO MORA: How was the experience of recording
with your father shortly before he passed away?
JOSHUA REDMAN: It was an amazing experience
to me, irrespective of the fact that it was the last time
that we played together, and the last time that we recorded
together. It was just a great opportunity to play with him
again. I played a lot with him when I first moved to New York
and toured and recorded with him, and I was in his band for
a couple of years, but we hadn’t played together much
over the past ten years, so I was really thrilled and honored
that he participated. It was great to play with him again,
and of course it took more significance after he passed away,
because it was the last time that we played together.
ARTURO MORA: How is the record evolving live?
JOSHUA REDMAN: Well, it’s like everything.
The material really changes and really grows as we start to
play it live more. I had an opportunity to play most of these
tunes live before we got into the studio, but still I’ve
been touring pretty heavily since the Spring, since the record
came out, and for sure the music changes, we get more comfortable
with it, it feels freer and looser. Sometimes I have to be
careful because I realize that the more we might play a tune,
you know the more familiar we are with it, the more we get
away from the core of what I had originally intented. We’re
always trying to push us to new ways of expressing ourselves,
but I don’t want to lose the emotional core, so that’s
always a balance that I have to be aware of.
But one thing that’s
been really interesting about this past years is that I’ve
toured with many, many different trios, it hasn’t been
just one band, and that’s a little unusual for me. In
the past it’s been usually one band that I’ve
toured with and recorded with in a certain kind, but in this
case obviously there are three different trios in the record
and I played gigs with all of them and with other combinations
of musicians, so that keeps the music fresh, and having different
musicians brings unique perspectives to the same material,
and keeps things interesting.
ARTURO MORA: What were your criteria to choose
the three rhythm sections?
JOSHUA REDMAN: I wanted to play with some of
the best musicians in the world, and some of the musicians
that I feel the most comfortable and the most inspiring playing
with, and I had great musical relationships with all of the
different players on the record, and had played quite a lot
with them over the years, and each trio, every drums and bass
combination had a very unique identity and sound, each group
had played together quite a bit, so I knew their sound, and
I knew that they would really be great for this project. And
I like the idea of having different bands with different identities,
different sounds. Every trio has its own feeling and approach.
I thought it would be interesting to have the
focus on everything being trio, that is kind of a very minimalist
context, but also to have the variety of different perspectives
on the same instrumentation.
ARTURO MORA: What differences do you find between
these trios and the organ trio you played with in the Elastic
JOSHUA REDMAN: There’s a lot of differences.
Obviously they’re both trios, but the Elastic Band was
much more of an electric project, and it wasn’t just
an organ trio, Sam Yahel played synthesizers, and Rhodes,
and all sorts of keyboards, and then we added a guitar. That
band was more groove-based and used electric as well as acoustic
instruments, and had a thicker, louder, bigger sound. There
was more harmony and texture and kind of sonic density, and
this trio [sax, bass and drums] is very spared, minimal, acoustic,
more swing-based, so it’s very different stylistically,
But I have to say
that for me the most important thing is not about the style,
but the spirit with which the music is played, and even though
they’re different projects in a certain way I play the
same way, I bring the same creativity and honesty and hopefully
intelligence for the music, and there’s a lot of continuity,
there are a lot of things that I’ve learned playing
with the Elastic Band that I’ve carried over to this
ARTURO MORA: In the last few years you’ve
put a great effort on the San Francisco Jazz Collective. Why
did you quit eventually?
JOSHUA REDMAN: “Quit” is kind of
a strong word. I helped get the band started and was really
committed to the band for four years, it was an incredible
experience to play with these musicians, it was a very unique
project, and it’s a fantastic band, I heard them off
the summer with Joe Lovano and Stefon Harris, who replaced
myself and Bobby Hutcherson. It’s getting better and
better, and it was a honor to be a part of it, but I needed
to take a break to focus on some other projects and kind of
re-focus on my own band. And that’s a larger ensemble,
and it was wonderful to play with and write for that ensemble,
but I like the freedom and the challenge of playing with this
ARTURO MORA: What can we expect from you after
the current tour ends?
JOSHUA REDMAN: I’ve written a lot more
music for trio, and I would like to do one more album if I
can in this context, and there’s a lot of ideas that
I have for other projects, but I think once I start doing
them I’ll talk about them, but now I’m really
just focused on what I’m doing.