Thirty-one-year-old Joshua Redman is young, smart, and deeply talented. The Berkeley High alum and Harvard U grad splashed down as the "It Boy" of contemporary saxophony in the early '90s, winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition and becoming a press darling. A major label (Warner Bros.) put out his eponymous debut album, and he followed it up with consistently solid work, most recently with Beyond, his seventh CD.
Whether Redman merited such lavish early attention is debatable, but success has given him the room to explore and develop his own artistry to an enviable degree. He isn't a radical performer, but neither is he afraid to push at old boundaries. Son of saxman Dewey Redman, Joshua recently artistic-directed an SFJAZZ season with the theme "Traditions in Transition: Communicating Across Generations." His notes in the SFJAZZ program praise "the living, breathing tradition of jazz that welcomes -- even actively pursues -- influences from the widest possible variety of musical styles and cultures." Yet while his polished soundbite gives a nod to experimentation, Redman never strays too far from home; experimental solos in his original compositions resolve themselves comfortably into engaging ensemble segments.
Redman certainly has his well-earned fans, but he'll have to innovate again in order to ensure his place in our collective memory. His upcoming weeklong stint at Yoshi's may be a great help to this end: An extended series of performances before a knowledgeable audience should allow Redman to cut loose a little and throw a few curves. He performs with his regular backers Aaron Goldberg (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Gregory Hutchinson (drums). Look for them to step up and prod Redman according to their own inspirations throughout the week.