Joshua Redman: Moodswing

Joshua Redman’s third album, Moodswing, (released in 1994), helped establish him as one of the brightest new stars in jazz. Son of tenor saxophone great Dewey Redman and great-nephew of the pioneering jazz arranger Don Redman, Joshua Redman burst onto the New York scene after graduating from Harvard with a degree in social science (summa cum laude). He won the Thelonious Monk Jazz Saxophone competition in 1991 and dropped plans to continue at Harvard Law School. Moodswing was both his first album with his own touring band and his first album to feature only his original compositions.

Redman was concerned with the public perception of jazz as being something cerebral that could only be enjoyed with the brain by learned insiders. Although the album was very commercially successful and certainly accessible to the broad public, it does not “dumb down” the music. It is a varied offering of artistic integrity, ranging from subdued ballads to joyous funky swing. Redman’s band at the time was made up of largely unknown young players, all of whom have become amazing leaders on their own and considered among the best in the business today. In addition to Redman, the quartet consisted of pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Brian Blade.

“The business is secondary to the art, always. It always has been and always will be. I didn’t get into the music business in order to make a living. For me music is not a vocation, its an avocation. It’s a passion. Everything that I do is based on what is going to inspire me as a musician.”

Redman continues to put forth thought-provoking albums with a quartet, trio, his funky Elastic band, and his latest group, James Farm, which debuted at last year’s Montreal Jazz Festival. Moodswing was recently re-released on CD and for the first time on a high quality vinyl pressing. It is still a very influential album and considered to be one of the most important jazz albums of the last 15 years. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Ben Ratliff. The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music.

Joshua Redman’s Official Website: