Joshua Redman Unleashes His "Inner Crooner"

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Sunday July 14, 2013

From JazzTimes

Joshua Redman Sings His Song
The saxophonist conquers the ever-daunting orchestral ballads album
By: Andrew Gilbert

Ultimately he was determined that Walking Shadows take shape as more than a collection of lovely tunes. “I wanted each song to tell a story and the whole album to tell a story,” Redman says. He acknowledges there’s something anachronistic about making albums this way in an iPod shuffle age. “When’s the last time I listened to a record beginning to end? It’s been a while,” he says. “But as long as I’m making albums, that’s my model.”

Whether interpreting Bach or Blonde Redhead’s sultry “Doll Is Mine,” Redman approached the material like a singer who paid dues with a swinging big band. The pre-production training was technical, emotional and idiomatic, and he threw himself into it with more than his usual diligence. In some ways he had to rewire his inner soundtrack, which leans heavily on soul stars like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. “In preparation for this I listened a lot to classic jazz vocalists: Ella, Sarah, Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong,” Redman says. “I spent a lot of time just putting iTunes on random on Sarah Vaughan and letting it wash over me. Although stylistically we cover a wide territory, I always conceived of this as a jazz ballad album, whatever that means.”

In immersing himself in jazz vocals, he translated some singing techniques onto the horn. “I realize this might seem like Saxophone 101 to a lot of players, but I realized that we almost always bend up into notes,” he explains. “Listening to these recordings, I realized vocalists come down to notes. I tried to do it and realized I couldn’t, so I shedded on that. Just the process of listening to vocalists and trying to mimic their phrasing on the saxophone opened up a whole expressive range.”

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