When Joshua Redman won the prestigious Thelonious Monk competition in 1991, it seemed as if every jazz magazine on the newsstands immediately decided to feature the 23-year-old tenor-sax player on its cover. From a journalistic perspective, it was a no-brainer. Joshua is the son of the fine tenor player Dewey Redman, who has worked with the likes of Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett in addition to recording as a leader. Add to this the fact that Joshua is a Harvard graduate who was accepted at Yale Law School but decided to pursue a career as a jazz musician. Add to this the fact that the Monk-competition win led immediately to a recording contract with Warner Bros., and there were definitely too many hooks for any music editor to pass up.
But as anyone hip to the music media knows, what goes up must come down. After a couple of decent recordings for Warners, the inevitable backlash occurred. It became obvious that Redman couldn't fulfill the role of a jazz Pied Piper who was going to get rock fans to rush over to jazz sections in record stores and immediately start buying CDs. Redman managed to survive the initial hype, and, at age 31, he's still signed to Warners, with a new recording, Devotion, set for an April 4 release. He's formed an intriguing new band consisting of the top-notch rhythm section of drummer Greg Hutchinson -- who has worked with Betty Carter, Roy Hargrove and Ray Brown; bassist Reuben Rogers -- a member of Nicholas Payton's band for several years; and up-and-coming pianist Aaron Goldberg.
Redman's quartet is set to kick off an American and European tour in support of Devotion at the Backstage Bistro this week, as part of the Jazz at the Bistro series. With eight sets over four nights, this should be an ideal shakedown cruise for the extensive tour -- and should be interesting enough to make jazz fans catch more than one set by this fine group.