Music Feature: Joshua Redman

If you’ve read my previous post, you know of my undying conviction that jazz must be preserved in this country. That’s not only up to our government, but up to us as a community. We must direct our attention to the struggling jazz artist, even if we can’t get enough of the new Beyoncé album.

(This is a digression, but as I wrote Beyoncé’s name, WordPress autocorrected her name to add the little accent onto the e. Beyoncé is now in the realm of autocorrect. She is an archetype of the digital unconscious.)

Anyway, Joshua Redman is no struggling artist. With NPR features, a $13,000 horn, and a Grammy award for his album Songs of Joy and Peace, you could say he’s doing pretty well. And he deserves it. Listening to this man flow through warm, miraculous tones is like getting lost in an oceanic reverie. Here’s one sample:

For those not familiar with the saxophone, it requires an intricate control of breath and lip over the reed to play well. This selection is a perfect example of how the tone should sound. It has to be free from extraneous noises, go from quiet to loud subtly, and sound on time. Redman plays with a sensitivity that is deceptively simple. This particular piece was written by him, and he’s joined by Brad Mehldau on piano. When you have one of the world’s greatest living pianists at your side, magic is bound to happen.

Joshua Redman doesn’t just play the soft romantic stuff though. He can swing, and he can attack a melody with abounding energy. Here’s one of his more upbeat pieces that still maintains the quality tone:

I’m pretty certain that this man has worked harder than we could ever imagine. A summa cum laude graduate from Harvard, he turned down Yale Law School to become a professional jazz musician. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991. Since this time, he’s put out 17 feature albums. He’s touring as I write this, performing in venues from Reno to Geneva. His trio is going to be featured at the upcoming “Bachfest” in Leipzig, Germany. Though he’s been on the scene since the mid-90’s, he shows no signs of slowing down. Except maybe on a ballad 😉

What I also respect about Redman is that he’s a true thinker. And I’m not the only one who feels strongly about the United States’ nationalistic connection to the spirit of jazz. In 2014, he was quoted as saying:

“I do feel there’s something special and unique about playing for audiences that are really engaged when you’re in the United States. There is a connection that’s special, and I think that has something to do with the fact that this is a music that comes from this country. Although it’s become a world music and, obviously, there are great jazz musicians from all over the world and it connects with audiences all over the world, there is a fundamental core of this music that comes out of an American experience.” – Joshua Redman

I wish I could articulate my point that well. I also wish I could get my tenor to sound as pristine as he does. But I’ll leave it up to the pro. So I’ll leave you with this, a supreme collaboration between Joshua Redman and the Bad Plus. I urge you to sit quietly and do nothing other than listen. Close your eyes if you have to. Even if you don’t “get” jazz right now, I promise there will be some meaning you gain from it…

Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau’s latest album, Nearness, is available on iTunes. This blog is not affiliated with them in any way. But I do suggest you buy the album right now. Or at least stream it on Spotify. Because it’s awesome.

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Check out the #HMPYG Spotify playlist!

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