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Joshua Redman, 'Back East' at Blues Alley

Saxophonist Joshua Redman is one of the most charismatic and successful artists in jazz. His success is deserved, and it's been keeping him busy.

He founded the SFJAZZ Collective, a composer's "workshop" band dedicated to new music. He also served as the artistic director of the San Francisco Jazz Spring Season for seven years, and has released eleven recordings as a band leader.

Redman's newest CD is Back East. We caught up with him rehearsing tunes from the new album at Washington, D.C.'s legendary jazz club Blues Alley.

Redman's inspiration for Back East came from Sonny Rollins' classic recording Way Out West. Redman says it all happened rather randomly. "I had my itunes on shuffle and 'I'm an Old Cowhand' from Way Out West came on and it just blew me away. I rarely have these moments of inspiration but immediately I said 'I've got to do my own version of this song.'"

Even before that inspiring moment, Redman knew he wanted to do a stripped-down acoustic trio record--just sax, bass and drums.

"It's a tremendously liberating format," Redman says. "Because there's no piano, no dedicated melodic instrument, it gives me and the other musicians so much room to experiment and explore, both melodically and harmonically. But with that freedom comes an awful lot of responsibility."

Redman has a distinguished musical pedigree. His father was the revered tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, and his mother, dancer Renee Shedroff, introduced him to music at a young age. Redman took up the saxophone in 5th grade, and later played in the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble.

At Harvard, he earned his bachelor's degree, but not in music. He did play in the big band, however, encouraged by the great tenor saxophonist and Artist-in-Residence Illinois Jacquet.

Redman graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and seriously contemplated law school. But in the meantime he won the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition and launched his career as a performer and recording artist.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.