Joshua Redman with Gary Giddins
James Farm, featuring Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, and Eric Harland, will be in concert at the University of Massachusetts on September 24. The band released its debut recording on Nonesuch Records earlier this year, and is presently in the midst of a tour of East and West Coast venues. All four members of James Farm are highly regarded players, and while its name spells out its intention to function as a cooperative unit, Redman is James Farm's star attraction, and at age 42, its senior member.
Joshua Redman is the son of Dewey Redman, the late tenor saxophonist who was associated with fellow Fort Worth, Texas native Ornette Coleman throughout his career. Josh was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by his mother, Renee Shedroff, a dancer who encouraged her son's interests in the arts and a wide range of musical styles, including music of Indonesia, Africa and India, as well as pop, rock, and jazz. While Redman played clarinet and saxophones in his youth, he gave little thought to a career in music, and he majored in Social Studies at Harvard, where he was graduated in 1991 and elected to Phi Betta Kappa. As an undergraduate, Redman played tenor saxophone in the Harvard Jazz Band and befriended young jazz musicians at Berklee and the New England Conservatory, but his intention was to study law at Yale after a year-long hiatus from school.
Redman's now-legendary decision to defer enrollment at Yale proved to be amazingly propitious, as he came to prominence as a saxophonist within months of his arrival in Brooklyn and immersion on the New York scene. By November of that year, he entered the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, and was the hands-down winner, notwithstanding a field whose runners-up included Eric Alexander, Chris Potter, and Tim Warfield. The victory brought Redman a contract with Warner Brothers, (the label of pop stars, not jazzmen), and a highly-publicized tour with Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins. Since then, Josh has enjoyed a combination of critical and popular renown rare in modern jazz, and he's worn the mantle of leader with aplomb. Redman is a charismatic showman and master of dynamics both as a saxophonist and arranger, and he's worked perhaps more deliberately than any other contemporary jazz artist at attracting a critical mass of listeners for acoustic modern jazz. Along the way, his groups have brought to prominence such major players as Kevin Hays, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Larry Grenadier, and Brian Blade. In 2000, Redman began serving as Artistic Director of the non-profit concert organization, SFJazz, and in 2004, he founded the San Francisco Jazz Collective .
Jazz critic Gary Giddins was one of the panel of judges at the Monk Competition that gave its unanimous vote to Redman. (Others included Benny Golson and Jimmy Heath.) Giddins has remained a champion of Redman's music in the intervening years, and here he is in 2009 conducting an engaging interview with Josh before an audience at CUNY.