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Entering Dewey Redman's Diverse Musical World


Dewey Redman.

The name sounds familiar but most jazz fans would associate the name with Joshua Redman, the latest Wunderkind on the jazz scene.

But long before his son arrived in a major way on the music scene, Dewey Redman had established himself as a highly regarded tenor saxophonist, performing and recording with Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, among others.

Despite these associations and plenty of critical acclaim, Redman has never managed to find a secure niche in the jazz mainstream.

"I'm strugglin', as I have been doing for the 26 years I've been in New York," says the 62-year-old Fort Worth native, who makes his Los Angeles debut as a leader Tuesday at Catalina Bar & Grill. "I've starved, and I've done well. If I lived in Europe, I could get my choice of gigs. There, I get a completely different feeling. I'm treated like an artist. But I can't seem to leave here. New York's a fascinating place, the musical capital of the world."

Perhaps one reason that relative fame and fortune have eluded Redman is that he inhabits a diverse musical world. The man with the bold tone and expressive ideas primarily embraces the freer aspects of jazz's avant-garde, but also admits an interest in be-bop, blues and other forms, giving him a multi-directional stance that may make it difficult for listeners to grasp. However, Redman isn't concerned.

"I play a little bit of everything, and I'm proud of that. But when you wear three or four hats, it's hard to get those styles to always come out. Maybe once or twice a year they do," he says with a laugh.

Though he hasn't made an album in two years, there's a lot of Redman available on recordings. He can be heard on albums such as Coleman's "New York Is Now" and "Love Call" (Blue Note); Jarrett's "Silence" (Impulse!) and "Foundations" (Rhino/Atlantic); Haden's "Dreamkeeper" (Blue Note); Old and New Dreams' "A Tribute to Blackwell" (Black Saint); and his own "Living on the Edge" (Black Saint) and "Choices" (Enja), which features his son Joshua.

"New York Is Now," recorded with Coleman, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison, stands out in Redman's memory. He moved to New York in 1969 and made the album with his high school classmate Coleman two years later. "I walked into the studio and I was shaking," Redman says. "I felt I didn't have any business there. Elvin and Jimmy had played with Coltrane and Ornette had been in New York since 1959. But Jimmy took me into a corner and told me, 'You can play. Just don't try to do anything you haven't done.' I made it through, and I like the album. It was a privilege for me to play with them."

Asked how he feels about his son's rapid rise in jazz, Redman is direct. "I'm not jealous, maybe a little envious, but very proud," he says. "He scares me to death, he plays so maturely. He's 25, plays like he's 55. He's going to get all the stuff I never got, including the recognition. But he's not letting it go to his head. He's still humble."

Redman's quartet--with Kenny Kirkland (piano), Cameron Brown (bass) and Ralph Penland (drums)--plays Tuesday through March 20, 9 and 11 p.m., at Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. $12-$15 cover, two drink minimum. Information: (213) 466-2210.

Good Cause: Lyrical singer Kevyn Lettau, whose latest JVC release is "Another Season," performs Wednesday at the Troubadour, in a benefit for Children of the Night. The organization provides food, shelter and counseling for runaway children ages 11 through 17.

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