Lived on the Edge
In 1997, Dewey Redman--the Fort Worth-born tenor sax player who, as much as any horn player, defined the avant jazz sound of the late 1960s and early '70s--was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Six years later, Redman told writer R.J. DeLuke, "I'm lucky to be here. You know what I mean? At this point, I'm 72 and a lot of my colleagues didn't make it. To think that the great John Coltrane, who I knew personally when I lived in San Francisco--I used to have conferences with him whenever he came to San Francisco--he passed at 41, which is a terrible tragedy. I'm a survivor." Today comes news that on Saturday, Redman suffered liver failure and has died at the age of 75.
It is no stretch to say of the avant jazzers of the 1960s, Redman is perhaps the least known; his childhood friend Ornette Coleman and such contemporaries and colleagues as Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Charlie Haden and Wes Montgomery attained semi-legendary status, and even his son Joshua's got a higher profile. Meanwhile, Redman suffered the fate of many of the great Texas tenors who recorded for and played to the adoring cult seeking frantic thrills and lovely hyperballads. He recorded with all the famous avant guardians of the '60s and '70s--Stanley Crouch's collection of jazz writings, Considering Genius, is loaded with references to Redman's myriad all-star bands--but much of his own discography is long out of print; alas, you can't find such sprawling masterpieces as 1966's Look for the Black Star, his debut, and 1974's Coincide on the legendary Impulse! label.
Redman learned to play in the church, performed in high school and at Prairie View A&M University; a long, wonderful bio can be found here, so I wouldn't dream of repeating it. Instead, we'll include two tracks from Coincide: the epic showcase "Qow" and the gorgeous ballad "Joie de Vivre," which show off two sides of the man who never got the credit he will likely receive now only in death. --Robert Wilonsky
Dewey Redman, "Joie De Vivre" (from the 1974 album Coincide)
Dewey Redman, "Qow" (from the 1974 album Coincide)