Arsht Center’s Jazz Roots series continues with Joshua Redman concert
The 11th season of the Jazz Roots series continues with a performance by saxophonist Joshua Redman, who recently received a Grammy nomination for his 2018 release “Still Dreaming.” Redman, who turns 50 next month, will lead a quartet into the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on Friday, Jan. 18, comprising pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Ben Williams and drummer/Miami native Obed Calvaire. Expect to hear heady, bluesy original compositions from throughout the saxophonist’s nearly 30-year discography, as well as tunes from a forthcoming album. However, Redman reserves the music from “Still Dreaming” for the band with which he recorded it, a specific repertoire for a specific lineup.
Possessing a rich, soulful tone inspired by heroes such as John Coltrane and Joe Henderson, Redman has established himself among his generation’s jazz elite. He’s received critical raves since his self-titled 1993 debut recording — his next, “Wish,” would earn him his first Grammy nod — and appeared on the big screen in Robert Altman’s “Kansas City” and in “Blues Brothers 2000.” And he continues to seek new challenges, helming the SFJAZZ Collective in San Francisco, recording with jazz-rock trio the Bad Plus, and taking part in the collaborative quartet James Farm. Yet it took him nearly 30 years to approach the music of one of his most profound influences: Dewey Redman, his father.
“Still Dreaming” honors the legacy of Redman Sr.’s 1970s-’80s band Old and New Dreams. While it’s not a typical tribute album — all but two of the songs are original — Redman and his colleagues play in a style that vividly recalls the music of Old and New Dreams and their artistic touchstone, Ornette Coleman. The album marks a departure from Redman’s more mainstream sound.
“For me, the music of Old and New Dreams, I didn’t hear it as being in this other category, like, ‘This is not mainstream jazz. This is outside. This is inaccessible,’ ” Redman says, speaking by phone from the Bay Area of his native California. “It was just music to me. It is uncompromising, and a lot of times, they’re not playing over pre-established harmonic and rhythmic forms, but there’s just this lyrical quality. It’s high-art music, but you really get this kind of warmth and inclusiveness.”
Born in Berkeley, Redman didn’t grow up with his father, although he listened to his records and attended his concerts. Even as he played sax in the well-regarded Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble, he hit the books at least as hard as the bandstand. It paid off: Redman graduated summa cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard.
Accepted at Yale Law School, Redman deferred admission for a year to live with some jazz-playing friends in Brooklyn. Diving into the New York jazz scene, Redman found inspiration and encouragement for his music, particularly after winning the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 1991. Yale Law no longer seemed a priority.
His time in New York also allowed him to become better acquainted and perform with his father, who died in 2006. “My dad could play as abstract and as thorny as anybody,” he says. “But he also played great blues, great standards, great bebop. He liked to do it all.”
The same could be said of Redman the younger. He enjoys mixing it up, in fact, feels a responsibility to do so. He’s looking forward to hooking up with his quartet in Miami, having played with pianist Goldberg for more than 20 years and for several years with drummer Calvaire. The son of Haitian immigrants, the North Miami-raised Calvaire studied music at the New World School of the Arts. He also played with Melton Mustafa’s big band, learning much from the late trumpeter and educator before matriculating to the Manhattan School of Music. Based in New York, he’s since worked with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Eddie Palmieri, soul singer Seal and R&B diva Mary J. Blige. In addition to seeing his parents, Calvaire can’t wait to visit his favorite Little Haiti eatery. “I don’t get to eat much Haitian food,” he says, “so I like to go this amazing restaurant called Chef Creole. They make the meanest conch.”
Like Redman, Calvaire grew up with a musical father. His dad sang with gospel groups. And, no question, their fathers’ impact proved indelible, even as they forged their own paths. Redman continues to come to terms with his dad’s legacy. “There were always aspects of his playing that I related to so profoundly, but were so mysterious and so unobtainable,” he says. “Just the soulfulness of his sound, and the strength and the warmth of his tone, the authority of it, but also the tenderness of it. Just this deep, warm, commanding but also vulnerable blues feeling that he gave to everything he played. It’s something that I’ve always loved.”
ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, music and performing-arts news.
The Joshua Redman Quartet will perform 8 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets cost $45-$125. Call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.
Photo courtesy Michael Wilson.