We talk to the saxophonist ahead of a jazz series at Wigmore Hall
The tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, son of jazz legend Dewey Redman, discusses his Jazz Series at London’s Wigmore Hall which kicks off on 2 November
You have performed at Wigmore Hall before, notably with pianist Brad Mehldau. How did your Jazz Series curator position arise?
Wigmore Hall approached me when I played with Brad Mehldau in 2009. They said that Brad was going to step down after his residency and they asked me if I was interested. It’s a beautiful venue, very acoustically rich, and also a somewhat unique venue to present jazz and jazz-related music in. And I decided to give it a try. I’m really looking forward to it.
You’ve got some top jazz talent on the programme. How did you select the artists?
Wigmore Hall was looking for me to be involved in half the concerts. But my favourite artists are not myself! If it were up to me I would probably programme a bunch of concerts with other artists. But of course I’m happy to play. I’ve just begun programming – this is a work in progress. It’s a bit of an adventure for me and I hope I learn a lot. I hope that audiences will as well. One of the challenges is trying to find not only interesting creative artists but also projects that work well acoustically in the hall. The Axis Saxophone Quartet (Joshua Redman with Chris Cheek, Chris Potter and Mark Turner) is going to kick off the Jazz Series this year, on Friday 2 November. It’s a brand new project for all of us. We’re excited – we have a good time and I think the music is going to develop the more that we play together.
What is your philosophy of being a ‘curator’. Are you dictating what will be performed?
No, not at all. To the extent that I am playing and involved as a player, I’ll probably be contributing repertoire and making decisions about what to play and what to not. But, for example, with the concert featuring pianist Guillermo Klein’s composition (1 February 2013), I implicitly trust anything that he’s going to do. He’s one of the most daring, most compassionate, composers working today in jazz. I know it’s going to be great, and especially with those musicians – saxophonists Chris Cheek, Miguel Zenon, and pianist Aaron Goldberg. In general, I want to be as hands-off as possible. There has to be a certain amount of risk involved and chances have to be taken. That fits with the improvisational spirit of jazz.
You famously won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991. How much of a difference did that make to your career?
It helped get my name out there and led to a record deal and a career as a leader. And it helped, after I won the Competition, when I started getting calls from great older jazz musicians, idols of mine, to play with them. These included bassist Charlie Haden, drummers Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian and Roy Haynes, guitarist Pat Metheny, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and pianist McCoy Tyner – I had a chance to play with all these people, within a year or so. That was huge for me because I feel like that, more than anything, was the turning point.
Is there a particular jazz legend that was a hero of yours?
It would probably be my father the saxophonist Dewey Redman. I started playing with him, shortly after I moved to New York, around the time I won the Competition. And I played regularly in his band for two years. He’s always been a hero to me as a musician. I’ve been listening to his music since the day I was born. But I didn’t grow up with him and I didn’t know him well as a father. So, that was an incredible experience, getting to play at the side of the master tenor saxophonist and learning from him on the bandstand, playing every night. And this was also a great opportunity to get to know my dad.
What else have you got coming up. Any new recordings?
I’ve got a lot of projects. I’m in the middle of finishing up an album of ballads, which will be released sometime next year. Brad Mehldau, Brian Blade (drums) and Larry Grenadier (bass) are playing on it and there’s some string arrangements. I’m excited about that one – this is probably a bit of a scoop because it’s the first interview I’ve done since recording it. Now that’s done, I feel I can talk about it.
For further information on the Joshua Redman Jazz Series at Wigmore Hall click here