Some guys have all the luck, or so it seems when confronting the extraordinary career of multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Joshua Redman. Ever since he burst onto the jazz scene with a win at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competition back in 1991, Redman has consistently turned up in the best of company, working with both recognized master musicians like Pat Metheny and in groups of his own that included an enviable list of up-and-comers like a young Brad Mehldau and Brian Blade. Heir to a venerable saxophone tradition thanks to his dad, Dewey, Redman has established his own sound on tenor, successfully blending the soulful, blues-based approaches associated with Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon with the take-no-prisoners touches of Sonny Rollins or John Gilmore. After devoting several years in the early 2000s to putting the remarkable SFJazz Collective project together, Redman broke through into new territory again, first with the genre-defying band James Farm, and then with recordings for saxophone and strings and saxophone trio. The strings project, released as Walking Shadows on the Nonesuch label, was recorded with Brooklyn-based, post-classical geniuses The Knights and is unquestionably one of the most important jazz records of this century. Trios Live, the latest in Redman’s impressive trios discography, brings together two concert recordings and features bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, the rhythm section that will join Redman for his upcoming Jazz at the Lobero gig on Tuesday, September 30.
Despite his humble claim to having been “super lucky,” Redman, just a few minutes into our phone conversation, dispels the notion that any of this incredible music happened by accident. He sees the rich roster of high-profile collaborators that crowd his career partly in light of the opportunities he has provided for them.
“At first it was really a function of the fact that, as an artist with a record deal at a major label, I was able to hire great people,” Redman said from his home in Berkeley. “But that situation didn’t last, and pretty soon I realized that if I wanted to continue working with musicians of that caliber, I was going to have to make some sacrifices. If they’re in demand either on their own or for work with other groups, you can’t expect to hold someone to an exclusive deal. So that’s what I realized — as a leader in this era of music, you need to be flexible.”
In expressing his affection for playing in trios, Redman emphasizes the relative freedom of that particular configuration, as well as its role in the creative lineage of jazz. “The trio has always been a special, almost sacred form, primarily because of all the great piano trios in jazz and because of how much the development of the music has depended on the piano trio as rhythm section,” he said, adding that, “ever since Sonny Rollins, the trio has also occupied an important place in the history of saxophone improvisation.” When asked why he thought this was so, Redman answered, “You can’t just role-play in a trio. In a quartet, your focus is maybe a bit more defined. In a trio, you still have to take care of home plate, but you can also roam — there’s a lot of freedom.”
Given Redman’s eclectic taste in covers, which range from Beethoven to Led Zeppelin, and his considerable strengths as a composer, this concert should be a season highlight, from the opener to the encore.
The Joshua Redman Trio will be at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Tuesday, September 30, at 8 p.m with Reuben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson. For tickets and information, call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.