Birthday greetings to saxophonist Joshua Redman, who celebrates No. 43 today.
Joshua follows father Dewey Redman in most jazz CD collections, but it wasn’t Dewey’s path which put him there. Nor was it so much his father’s influence, but his mother’s.
Renee Shedroff was a dancer and librarian in California; she and Joshua’s father never married, according to enotes.com. Shedroff raised Joshua — they would see Dewey when a concert tour brought him near, and Joshua would hear him among the sounds of a house filled with music — and she introduced him to the arts.
“His mother . . . was the driving force that nurtured his creativity,” wrote Matt Pierson on the liner notes to Redman’s debut 1993 album.
“Materially, I did not grow up privileged,” Joshua told the crimson.com in a 2011 interview. “My mother and I were on welfare at times when I was growing up. I wanted a sense of stability, and playing jazz wasn’t my first choice economically speaking.”
Medicine might have been. Or law. Just not music. Because of his scholarship, Redman didn’t lack for opportunities. He graduated first from his class in high school and went to Harvard, from where he graduated summa cum laude (he may not be the best saxophone player ever — he’s certainly up there — but he’s pretty surely the smartest).
Redman was accepted into law school at Yale, and according to pbs.org, intended to work in civil rights or social work. Like a lot of college graduates, he took time off before matriculating at Yale Law. Redman intended it to be only a year’s sabbatical; we’re now at 21, and counting. We’re guessing Yale’s not saving a spot for him any more.
“I didn’t grow up with my father around, but I know that he struggled to put food on the table for himself and for his family,” Redman told the crimson.com. “I knew that there were many challenges to becoming a creative musician with integrity.”
Perhaps so, and perhaps the challenges are more than we can appreciate. But we also can guess this much: Redman became a “creative musician with integrity,” because he started as one, more than two decades ago when he decided the world could do with just one less lawyer.
“The reason I am playing music is because there is a part of me that feels that I can’t do anything else or there is a part of me that feels I have to play music,” Redman said in an interview with Fred Jung at jazzweekly.com. “It gives me an inspiration and a fulfillment and a joy that nothing else does. That is why I chose to play it. So it wasn’t a career decision. It wasn’t a rational decision in that sense. It was a decision of the heart and soul.”
Sources: enotes.com, crimson.com, jazzwekly.com, pbs.org, baltimoresun.com