From his first confident step onto the national stage with his triumph at the 1991 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, he soloed with preternatural maturity, improvising with a beguiling blend of recklessness and poise. Off the bandstand, his demeanor was similarly engaging. Bright and curious, thoughtful and garrulous, Redman emerged as an irresistible story, the scion of a jazz legend who was giving up a slot at an Ivy League law school to pursue a life in music. Gary Giddins, one of Redman’s earliest champions, captured the compelling appeal of his music for many jazz lovers when he wrote in a 1993 “Weather Bird” column that the saxophonist’s sound “answers a need I didn’t know I had…. Not since David Murray’s debut 18 years ago has a tenor saxophonist filled a role I didn’t know was lacking, the absence of which now seems unimaginable.”
Whether Redman has lived up to that deeply felt sense of expectation is for each listener to decide. But as he completes the journey from young star to mid-career veteran, the 38-year-old Redman is also in the midst of several life transitions, passages that seem to resonate powerfully in his music. In a conversation over tea at a café not far from his home in Oakland, Calif., Redman talks about the recent changes in his life, beginning with the birth of his son Jadon in February 2006.