Blowing down the walls

Joshua Redman is a young lion primed to become a jazz king

"Jazz is a lifestyle you must assume," he says. "It's not something you can pick up. You have to live the music, you have to play it. But they're offered a tremendous amount of money, and some of them figure, 'That's it. I'm there. I've arrived. And it takes a lot more than that--a lot more. You really have to play and figure out where you are because it's nice to be inspired by someone else, but somewhere inside of you is yourself and that's what you're trying to achieve. You're trying to bring yourself out."

So when he tapped Joshua Redman to join him for a project last year, he did so because Redman is far more than another "young blood" (to use Tyner's words); Tyner picked him because he considers Redman an honest-to-God contemporary, an heir to a throne abandoned by so many of the men McCoy played with decades before Joshua was even born.

"Joshua came up playing," Tyner says. "It's his whole life. I tried to get the best young guys on that date, and Joshua's one of them. These guys, like Joshua and Antonio Hart and Christian McBride, are already on a certain level. They're already on their way."

And indeed, Redman himself would insist that Spirit of the Movement is merely a "summation" of a young career, a step toward something far different; like a young Coltrane, whose career evolved so quickly in a short span once he got off Prestige and then went to the Atlantic and Impulse! labels, Redman at least displays the potential to grow just as rapidly.

A performance like the one he renders on the self-penned "Count Me Out" from Spirit showcases a confident musician whose ability transcends his inspiration: With short and rapid-fire bursts, fiery squawks and loud honks, he finds that tenuous middle ground where a song almost (but not quite) loses the melody and disintegrates into an experiment in noise and sound. He can play the ballads ("Second Show"), the big-band bop ("Remember"), whatever is placed in front of him. For all the street-smart articulation displayed by this Berkeley-bred Harvard grad, Redman nonetheless strives for those sweet moments of unintellectual, unfettered natural expression in his music.

"My approach was: I play music because I want to," Redman says. "It makes me feel good, it makes me creative. Now the challenge is to keep that. The important thing is to be able to do it that way, to make every day feel like the first time I picked up the saxophone in a year."

Having more or less stumbled into a jazz career, Redman is also able to savor the sweetness of his success. "It really makes me believe in fate, and I'm a fairly skeptical person," he says."One of the great things about not having this for part of my plan is that every little thing that happens is this great surprise, something really wonderful," he concludes, perhaps unconsciously alluding to those similar moments of musical magic that make for great jazz. "You know the old thing they say about the icing on the cake? Well, my life is all icing at this point."

Joshua Redman performs December 2 at the Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth.

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