Joshua Redman Coming To Denver on March 1

Joshua Redman Group

This is an interview with acclaimed jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, who discusses his latest album, Where Are We, and his upcoming concert in Denver. Redman talks about the concept behind the album and how he chose the songs for it. He also discusses his collaboration with vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa and their unique album-making process. The interview concludes with Redman discussing his upcoming show at Gates Concert Hall on Friday, March 1.

Steve Roby: Joining us now is Joshua Redman. It’s great to have you with us on KGNU. Welcome. 

Joshua Redman: Thank you. It’s great to be with you. I’m Looking forward to coming to Denver.

Roby: Where am I reaching you today?

Redman: I’m at home in Berkeley, California.

Roby: Ah, my old stomping grounds.

Redman: Oh yeah? Mine, too, I guess. I was born and raised here.

Roby: I’m curious about the title of your current album, Where Are We, and if it’s meant to be a question or a phrase, how did the concept come together?

Redman: I’m not sure what it’s meant to be. I think there’s a certain ambiguity, certainly in the title, because the title should be a question, but I intentionally left the question mark off. There is an ambiguity, I guess, in the entire concept of the album; well, on the surface, the surface concept is. It’s an album of songs about places in the United States, which is not a revolutionary concept. It’s been done before and probably far better than I did it.

Roby: What inspired you to develop this theme for this album?

Redman: Well, initially, it was just kind of a way to get started because when Gabrielle Cavassa, the vocalist, when Gabrielle and I decided to make a record together and started planning and searching for songs, it was just such an overwhelmingly vast landscape, a sea of possible material that… I was like, well, here’s a concept to help narrow our choices.

I didn’t necessarily think it was going to stick around. I thought once the creativity started flowing, the concept might disappear. Or at least fade to the background. I think concepts are always better when they’re in the background. If it exists at all, but this one stuck around and, in the end, I mean, certainly, we’re not making any definitive statements about America, but I think that there are some questions and some juxtapositions there on the album… It’s a meditation, in a way.

Roby: This is your first album on the Blue Note label and the first to feature vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa. How did you come to select her for this album?

Redman: I don’t know if I’d say I selected her. I mean, I guess we self-selected, we selected each other. (laughs)

This has been a very unusual musical journey for me. …a very fortuitous and, fruitful musical journey, but it didn’t unfold the way a lot of my musical relationships and collaborations… it tends to be like… I’ll hear a musician, meet them, play with them live, and then at a certain point we form a band together, and then at a certain point, we decide to record that band.

And in this case, this all started during the pandemic, and I wasn’t working at all. I was just sitting on my butt at home, and I didn’t know Gabrielle; she was here in the Bay Area, in Berkeley.

But, we never crossed paths. I had heard her name. but I wasn’t familiar with her music and, my manager, Anne Marie Wilkins, she was, in New Orleans; this was in the fall of 2021, and she was at some function and, she texted me out of the blue, and she never does this, and she was like, this woman is singing, and she’s riveting, and you should check her out, and it was Gabrielle, and I did, and then we started talking and decided to try to make a record together, but we had never met each other.

We had never made music together. We didn’t meet each other in the flesh until less than a month before we actually recorded. So, it was a very, so much was, was handled. virtually, is that possible to say that? but in the end, the music making was very real, and we were, we were all there in New Orleans, and it was an incredible band. It turned out to be a project like none other than I’ve ever done from a recording standpoint, and now we’re on and off the road for the foreseeable future together. So, it’s been a lot of fun.

Roby: I think she compliments your saxophone’s tones perfectly, and the combination is a nice blend.

Redman: Oh, thank you… she’s got such a rich voice and such an expressive voice and such an emotive power in her approach… those are musical values that I cherish as well and try to get them in my sound as well, and I think we’re both very sensitive and deep listeners and, we figure out how to complement each other,

Roby: You covered John Coltrane’s deeply moving song, “Alabama,” the album has three songs with Alabama in the title. Can you talk about the selections and how they all differ?

Redman: In fact, it’s only two songs. So, it just had to be titled that way because of honestly publishing because it’s a juxtaposition of “Stars Fell on Alabama,” which is the old, classic, American Songbook standard, I guess, set in this, this mythical meteor shower.

Maybe it wasn’t mythical, but there was a meteor shower sometime in the 1800s, maybe in Antebellum, Alabama, and so it’s kind of like the story of two lovers in the field, drawn to each other and obsessively in love with each other. Underneath… in the midst of this meteor shower.

So, this kind of hyper-idealized romanticized American love song. And then, I wanted to juxtapose that with a very different one. American reality, but also through the lens of the same state, Alabama. John Coltrane’s “Alabama” was his meditation on the bombing of the 16th Baptist Church in 1963, which was a horrific, racist terrorist act, but it was one that really galvanized and captivated the nation and a source of organizing; it was an impetus for a lot of action, in the civil rights era.

There are three tracks on there because the intro quotes “Alabama,” and then we go into “Stars Fell on Alabama,” and back into Alabama. It’s really meant to be experienced as one complete performance.

Roby: That all makes sense now. Thank you. I’d also like to thank you for paying tribute to my hometown, San Francisco, with Tony Bennett’s classic. You’re originally from Berkeley, as you mentioned earlier. How would you say the Bay Area’s music scene influenced your style?

Redman: It certainly was a very diverse place and not just diverse, but there was a sense of interactive diversity across cultures and ethnicities and even different walks of life and people from different economic backgrounds and cultural backgrounds.

I think the Bay Area has always had this kind of wide open, fluid, porous kind of experimental… It’s maybe not contrarian, but pushing against tradition, demarcations, and boundaries.

I think that ethos was around when I was growing up, and it probably influenced the kinds of music that I heard and just a sense of openness and flexibility and fluidity in terms of art in general, not feeling like you had to be associated with or beholden to one camp or one tribe.

Roby: Is there a message or emotion you’d like the listeners to take away with them when they finish listening to the album?

Redman: I hope they take something away… I really feel like with music, I do my best to put my all into it and to try to play as soulfully and honestly as and creatively as possible, but then the music doesn’t belong to me anymore. I mean, it never really did.

I hope that people feel something. I hope it makes them think if they want to think, help if they’ve wanna dance, they can dance, but hopefully there’s something that touches them, or provokes them or challenges them. But what that is, is up to them.

Roby: It certainly touched me. I really enjoyed the album.

Redman: Thank you so much!

I appreciate the opportunity to come back and play some music with y’all. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and always have a good time. – Joshua Redman

Roby: Well, let’s talk about your upcoming concert at Gates Hall on March 1st. Besides Gabrielle, who’s joining you on stage?

Redman: This band has been touring behind the album since the fall of last year. A great band of… I guess I can say, ’cause I’m getting old, young musicians. Paul Cornish is the pianist, Philip Norris is the bassist, Nazir Ebo is the drummer, and Gabrielle and myself, of course.

Roby: What can your fans look forward to at the Gates Hall show?

Redman: Some music, hopefully (laughs). Some good music… we’re gonna be playing music from the album for sure. I mean, that’s kind of the core of what we’re working with and songs about places, both in the United States, we’ve also been to Europe, so, we rolled in some extra songs for all the European cities, so maybe we’ll pull some of those out and, I mean, we’re gradually updating the repertoires constantly, continually evolving and expanding.

So, it will certainly be the core of the music from the album, but there’ll be other stuff, too, probably who knows.

Roby: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go, Joshua?

Redman: No, I’m just excited. I’ve had a chance to come in and come through Denver, not the Denver area, not as much as I would like to, but a fair amount over the years. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and always have a good time. I appreciate the opportunity to come back and play some music with y’all.

Roby: Joshua, it’s been a great pleasure. thanks so much for stopping by KGNU today. We’re looking forward to your upcoming show in Denver.

Redman: I look forward to being there with you. Thank you so much.

Ticket Info

The Joshua Redman Group will perform on Friday, March 1st, at 7:30 p.m. at Gates Concert Hall. Tickets and more info can be found at https://newmancenterpresents.com/performances or by calling 303-871-7720.

This interview has been edited for continuity and clarity.

Photo credit: Zack Smith.

About the author: From the San Francisco Bay Area to the Big Island of Hawaii, Steve Roby has worked as a journalist, entertainment photographer, magazine editor, radio host (San Francisco, Hawaii, and Denver), and video documentarian. Since 1989, he has been writing about music and interviewing musicians. Roby is also a published author of three books, one on the L.A. Times Non-Fiction Hardcover Best Seller List.

Steve Roby

Steve Roby

From the San Francisco Bay Area to the Big Island of Hawaii, Steve Roby has worked as a music journalist, entertainment photographer, magazine editor, radio host (San Francisco, Hawaii, and Denver), and video documentarian. Roby is also a published author of three books, one on the L.A. Times Non-Fiction Hardcover Best Seller List. He’s been featured in The New York Times, Rolling Stone (x2), and Billboard. He’s now based in Denver.
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