Joshua Redman: “Jazz is not soundbite music”

27. April 2019
Eveli Paalberg

Joshua Redman is one of the most highly acclaimed and visible jazz artists working today. His singing tenor saxophone tone and exploratory projects have been praised by fans and critics alike. During Jazzkaar he performed just before the Estonian Jazz Awards ceremony. Our web reporter Eveli Paalberg asked a few questions about rewards, jazz music in general and birthday wishes for Jazzkaar.


EP: How are you? Is Estonia treating you well?

JR: Yes, everything is going great.


EP: You are performing just after the Estonian Jazz awards ceremony. How do you feel about the nominations and awards. Are they important in music?

JR: That’s a good question. When I win them it’s very important (laughs). No, I mean… I think it’s really nice for musicians to be recognised for what the work they do. When you choose a life as a jazz musician, it’s not the easiest path. Musicians make a lot of sacrifices for the music and audiences make a lot of sacrifices for the music so any sort of recognition is appreciated, so in that sense the prizes and awards are great thing. As far as the competition aspect of it, I’m not a fan of that. Jazz music in particular is a very collaborative art form. It’s not about comparing yourself to others or trying to outdo others. It’s about coming together with other musicians and trying to create something in the moment. Still, the awards shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I mean, I am honoured if I receive recognition of some sort but it doesn’t change the way I do music or see my own music. It doesn’t help with my self-criticism.


EP: Are you a big self critic?

JR: Yes, I’m a pretty big self critic. I mean, that might be my one great big talent (laughs). I love to play music and the act of playing music together with other musicians is all joy and love but when it comes to evaluating myself after I’ve played I always come up short.


EP: Is that something that has kept you on the road of jazz? The need to become better and better?

JR: Well, if you are looking for music that is gonna continually frustrate you, that might be jazz (laughs). For me it does not matter how much I play or practise, every day I feel like a complete beginner. The thing about jazz is that you are celebrating but you are also held captive by the moment and you will never know what the moment will bring. You can never play it perfectly and you have to accept it.


EP: What do you think of the current jazz scene in the world? Where are we headed?

I think that jazz by nature is very open-ended and outward looking so the idea that jazz has to remain pure to a certain idea or tradition, that has never been the thing. Jazz kind of allows you to take whatever your interests are and whatever your musical character is and kind of put that into the music so I think it’s natural that jazz musicians are bringing influences from other styles into jazz. But it does not have to be slashed with other music in order to stay relevant.


EP: You have said that jazz is more challenging music than entertainment. Could you please elaborate on that thought.

JR: Yes, modern jazz is art music. It’s not music where the primary purpose is to entertain people, but you can be moved and entertained by it. It requires work from the musicians and it requires work from the audience. Today we have this thing of instant gratification. You know, kind of delivering to people what they think they want to hear instantly and kind of … people are more and more becoming condition to this kind of constant stimulation. I think jazz does not fit well into that picture. It’s not soundbite music. Jazz requires a certain type of patience from the listener. But if you are willing to give it some time and patience, it can reward you.


EP: Jazzkaar is turning 30 this year. What would you say to 30 year old Joshua Redman.

Keep celebrating your 30th birthday and practise more. The great thing about festivals is that they might get older but they don’t have to be less energized or more tired. I would encourage myself to live more in the moment.