Saxophone player Joshua Redman is proof that you don’t need a formal musical education to be a successful musician.
Despite his self-taught status, the two-time Grammy Award nominee is one of the most acclaimed jazz artists of his generation.
“Because I’ve had to figure out how to do things my own way, I’ve never had a pedagogical approach,” Redman said, adding that he’s “always had a certain innocence and a certain kind of freedom” that have allowed him to take a spontaneous and personal approach to music.
His eponymous Joshua Redman Quartet, which features Reuben R. Rogers on bass, Aaron Goldberg on piano and Marcus Gilmore on drums, will headline the second annual SLO Jazz Festival on Saturday in downtown San Luis Obispo.
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Also performing on Mission Stage are Alfredo Rodriguez, John Santos Sextet, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers and Paul McCandless with Charged Particles. The rest of the lineup includes Broad Street Stage acts Boogie Stomp, Choro De Ouro, Human Nation and Wally Schnalle and Bang.
The son of saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff, Joshua Redman wasn’t drawn to music at first.
“I didn’t have that raw natural talent from the beginning,” said the musician, who started playing saxophone in fifth grade. “I didn’t like to practice. I wasn’t serious about it.” His parents didn’t pressure him either.
“My dad … used to say all the time, ‘Go to law school,’” Redman said. “He knew firsthand how hard it was to make a living playing the music you want to play.”
Yet, the musician added, “Mom wanted me to make my own way.”
Redman graduated from Harvard College in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies. Already accepted to Yale Law School, he deferred enrollment for what he thought would be a year — moving to Brooklyn, hanging out with musician friends from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and becoming immersed in the New York jazz scene.
“There were a lot of things that happened to me seemingly accidentally at just the right time that lead me down (that) road,” Redman said.
Five months after moving to New York, Redman was named winner of the 1991 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. That led to the saxophonist touring and recording with jazz greats including Charlie Haden, Elvin Jones, Pat Metheny and Clark Terry — as well as his own father.
“The opportunities that were granted to me being his son were huge,” Redman acknowledged. He also appreciated the chance to jam with his dad, who passed away in 2006.
“I’ve recognized … the great fortune I’ve had,” Redman said. “(But) it’s never changed my estimation of my own music. I feel like a musician who has something to say.”
Redman released his self-titled debut album in 1993, earning his first Grammy nomination. Over the years, he has released more than a dozen albums — including 2005’s “Momentum,” which netted a Grammy nomination, and 2014’s “Trios Live.”
Redman’s latest collaboration finds him teaming up with The Band Plus for the album “The Bad Plus Joshua Redman,” due out May 26. He first played with the tight-knit jazz trio four years ago.
“We connected from the beginning and we realized this was something worth pursuing,” Redman said, adding that such projects “help me stay fresh.” “What I learn from one musical context keeps me inspired, and I can apply (it) to another musical context.”
SLO Jazz Festival
11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Mission Plaza, San Luis Obispo
$30 to $95
(888) 825-5484 or www.slojazzfest.org