Saxophonist Joshua Redman grew up in Berkeley, California, a very high achiever academically who turned to music for fun.
“I loved music, and I loved listening to it and I loved playing it, but I wasn’t serious about it. Music was kind of an escape, it was kind of a relief for me from the more rigorous aspects, the more studious aspects, of academics,” Redman says. “That was kind of how I let myself go and have fun.”
Redman started clarinet in the fourth grade and switched to tenor sax in the fifth. He loved blues, rock, funk, jazz and, thanks to his dancer mom, Indian and Indonesian music.
“My mom was an incredible mom, and gave me all the love and support a child could ask for,” he says. “But materially, financially, I grew up without a lot of means, and my mom was on welfare the time I was growing up. So, I kind of saw academics, and academic success, in a certain way as a possible way to achieve some sort of... just stability.”
It came time for college, and Redman headed east to Harvard, initially intending to become a physician and ultimately aiming for law school at Yale, where he was accepted.
“I thought I was going to go on to law school, but I ended up taking a year off — what I thought was going to be a year off — and I moved to New York, and that’s when I started getting serious about playing and started hooking up with all kinds of great musicians,” he says. “I guess that so-called year off has never ended. It’s been the longest year ever.”
“I think I would have made a pretty lousy lawyer,” he continued. “Whatever skills I had in that respect have completely deteriorated by now, so the jazz world is stuck with me as a jazz musician as long as long as they’ll have me.”
That should be a very long time, as Joshua Redman has become a major contributor to jazz as a player and composer.
His quartet plays Jazz Fest Friday, April 26.