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Conversations with Curtis, featuring Joshua Redman

We are thrilled to have acclaimed saxophonist Joshua Redman kicking off JAZZ ROOM Season 19 performing music from his new Blue Note Records debut album Where Are We, featuring vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa. These performances mark the only time on his limited tour that the band from the all-star quartet featuring Aaron Parks, Joe Sanders, and Brian Blade will be playing together. Here are a few highlights from Joshua’s conversation with our own Curtis Davenport. Watch the complete interview on Youtube.

Curtis: I have to admit, sir, and I’ll age myself a little bit. I’ve been a fan of yours since your first album that set us all ablaze back in, dare I say, 1993. 
Joshua: That’s been a minute.

Curtis: Your newest album, “Where are We,” is first on Blue Note records after many years on Nonesuch and before that on Warner Brothers. May I ask: Why Blue Note at this point?
Joshua: Because they would take me! … I just feel so blessed and honored and grateful and fortunate to be able to be making music period on any label. I didn’t have a grand plan. But to the extent that I had any plan for my life, being a professional musician wasn’t one of them. I’ve been so lucky to be able to play with the greatest musicians on earth and to be able to make records as a sideman and as a leader. I had a great run on Warner Brothers Records and then on Nonesuch but it’s a thrill to be on Blue Note. Much of the foundational music for me, as a jazz saxophonist but also just as a human being, there’s so much music content that has been created on that label that has been moving and influential for me. So, it’s great to be a part of it.

Curtis: Just being on that label standing alongside truly the greats of the music, I’m sure it’s very exciting.
Joshua: A little intimidating, too.
Curtis: At this point, I find that hard to believe that you would be intimidated.
Joshua: Those shoes are like, I can’t even begin to think about filling them. It’s like my whole foot does doesn’t even fit into toe of the shoe. Yeah, it’s a gas.

Curtis: Let’s talk a little bit about Where are We? Now this is your first album where you’ve been the leader with a vocalist, with Gabrielle Cavassa. How did the two of you come to collaborate?
Joshua: I don’t know if anything in my life in music is so called normal or ordinary. This was a particularly kind of atypical musical meeting because usually when I form bands or collaborate with folks or hire them, I’ve known them and made some music with them, or played together in someone else’s band or jam session. In this case, we started planning the record during the pandemic. I wasn’t making music with anybody but myself, and it wasn’t very few pretty music I was making with myself. I already had this idea of someday doing one of my own records with a vocalist. Actually my manager …was at a place in New Orleans, heard her and texted me. I started checking her out and realized there was something deeply compelling and unique. She just has access to certain sorts of textures and emotions and a certain intimacy in her voice that I found really interesting. We started communicating basically on the phone and by text and planned the record and then we met like a month before. It still is strange. I’ve told the story before and it doesn’t seem like the right story. But yeah, I think it worked out.

Curtis: Now, talking more about the album. I describe it as kind of a travelogue. You take us through different places all across America, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, kind of a concept album as it were. What gave you the concept for this?
Joshua: Well, I hate concept albums Curtis. I tend to be suspicious of them and very deeply suspicious of them when they’re my own, because I really feel like ultimately the concept for music – all music and especially a music like jazz, which I think is such a broadly interpretable personal, subjective sort of musical expression- I feel ultimately, the music is the concept. I’m wary of this idea of a concept driving the music and determining the music. I want the music to be determined through its own natural kind of organic flow. But we did start with this idea. We needed something to kind of narrow down the options … You could say it’s in some ways a record about America and the American dream, but also the American reality which oftentimes doesn’t align with that. Both the romantic and optimistic sense of potential that this country has, but also the reality and some of the hardship that exists in the country, the failure of the country to live up to some of its ideals. It’s all in there, you know. And then also, I think it’s a way of addressing universal human beings, in terms of love and loss, grieving, remembering, forgetting, hope, fear, just the stuff that makes humans humans through the lens of place in the United States.

Curtis: I know that Gabriella will be joining you here in Charlotte, who else will be joining you?
Joshua: This is special because we were able to get the band on the record. This is the only time that we may be doing this in the foreseeable future. Aaron Parks is the pianist. Joe Sanders is the bassist and Brian Blade is the drummer. I’m very excited. When we made the record, I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams that we would actually be able to tour this band, but we did find a window of time wherever it was available. So yeah, this is special.

Curtis: Anything else that our folks in Charlotte should know, be ready for, or look forward to from seeing you?
Joshua: Expect the unexpected. It’s jazz you know. We’re so excited to be coming through and it’s nice to be able to be in a place for more than one night. That’s not often the case, so we’re looking forward to it.

Join us for a JAZZ ROOM special edition on October 6th and 7th at the Booth Playhouse to hear more from Joshua.

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