For saxophonist Joshua Redman, the prodigiously talented son of the late great saxophonist Dewey Redman, who played with luminaries like Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman, playing jazz is a very personal and collective experience.
“In jazz, if you go onstage with the intent of trying to sound like somebody else, you’re setting yourself up for failure," says Redman. "The heart and soul of jazz is playing what you feel in the moment, and the ‘you’ is a very, very important part of that concept. You’re trying to find your voice and tell your story, but in a way that connects with the other musicians you’re playing with, and with the audience. The great bands of jazz exemplify that philosophy.”
On February 24 at the Wortham Center, Redman brings that ideology to life with a music program inspired by his father’s band, Old and New Dreams, which came together in 1976 and featured Redman alongside fellow Coleman musical alumni Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. But instead of simply paying homage to the music of another era, Redman and band mates Ron Miles (cornet), Scott Colley (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) draw upon the music of Old and New Dreams as an “organizing principle” for their own adventurous approach to group improvisation.
Redman points out that each one of the four musicians in Old and New Dreams were a part of some of Coleman’s “most memorable and classic musical creations,” including his explosive 1960 album Free Jazz, which still has the capacity to freak out more conservative listeners, and the wild, multi-tracked, early '70s psychedelic masterpiece Science Fiction.
“Ornette’s music was and is revolutionary,” says Redman, who was born in 1969. “He had these incredible songs that implied certain harmonies and certain structures, but those harmonies and structures became completely malleable, to the point where when he and his musicians started improvising, they were playing without a preset grid.” Though Redman rose to prominence in the 1990s, a time when many young musicians on the scene were focused on more traditional ways of playing jazz, Redman always embraced the outer limits of the music’s improvisatory language.
“This is a band where we feel pretty comfortable with that language,” says Redman of his current quartet. “I love playing in situations that are really open. It allows for true collective improvisation. In a way, we may be trying to collapse the distinction between playing something that is formally ‘free’ and something that isn’t.”
“I think Charlie Parker was as free as it gets,” says Redman, who possesses a deep knowledge of all eras of jazz. “Louis Armstrong too, in his own way.”
All of the above may be a lot for the novice jazz fan to take in, especially when it comes to hearing the similarity between Armstrong’s vintage blues and Coleman’s most frenetic and intense recordings. But in performance, Redman is as personable and passionate a player as he is a conversationalist, and connecting with his audience is as important to him as connecting with his fellow musicians onstage.
“This is a language and a process and a subjective experience,” says Redman of jazz. “We are playing a challenging — some would say esoteric — music that I think can be incredibly rewarding, but requires patience and a certain amount of attention from its audience. And we live in a time that doesn’t encourage those sorts of qualities. We live in a click-bait culture, and jazz is not click-bait music.”
Feb 24 at 8. $37.50–67.50 Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-524-7601. dacamera.com