In 1991, he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.
Joshua Redman was born in Berkeley, California, to jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer and librarian Renee Shedroff. He was exposed to many kinds of music at the Center for World Music in Berkeley, where his mother studied South Indian dance. Some of his earliest lessons in music and improvisation were on recorder with gamelan player Jody Diamond. He was exposed at an early age to a variety of musics and instruments and began playing clarinet at age nine before switching to what became his primary instrument, the tenor saxophone, one year later. Redman cites John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley, his father Dewey Redman, as well as the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Earth, Wind and Fire, Prince, the Police and Led Zeppelin as musical influences.
Redman graduated from Berkeley High School, class of 1986, after having been a part of the award-winning Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble for all four years of high school. After graduation, Joshua frequented the classroom jam sessions of Bay Area pianist and professor of music (at Laney College in Oakland, California), Ed Kelly. It was there that he performed alongside his friend Robert Stewart (saxophonist).
In 1991, he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Social Studies from Harvard University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa Society. He had already been accepted by Yale Law School, but deferred entrance for what he believed was only going to be one year. Some of his friends had recently relocated to Brooklyn, and they were looking for another housemate to help with the rent. Redman accepted their invitation to move in, and almost immediately he found himself immersed in the New York jazz scene. He began jamming and gigging regularly with some of the leading jazz musicians of his generation and that of his father, including Brad Mehldau, Peter Martin, Mark Turner, Peter Bernstein, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Kevin Hays, Jorge Rossy, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, among others.
Redman won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991, and began focusing on his musical career. He was signed by Warner Bros. Records and issued his first self-titled album in the spring of 1993, which subsequently earned Redman his first Grammy nomination. He continued to develop his style throughout the 1990s, beginning with a sideman appearance on Elvin Jones' Youngblood alongside Javon Jackson, and following up with an appearance on his father Dewey's 1992 record Choices. On his second album as a leader, Wish, he was joined by a notable lineup consisting of guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins; this group then toured as The Joshua Redman Quartet, featuring Christian McBride in place of Charlie Haden. He continued to work with various quartets, including one with pianist Brad Mehldau until forming a new trio, Elastic, with keyboardist Sam Yahel and drummer Brian Blade. The trio debuted under the moniker Yaya3, producing one album under this name. The same group of musicians made up the core on Redman's Elastic album, before becoming known as the Joshua Redman Elastic Band. Some of his works were featured on The Weather Channel's Local on the 8s. Redman performed in a fictitious supergroup, "The Louisiana Gator Boys", in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000, performing on "How Blue Can You Get?" and "New Orleans".
In 1999, Joshua Redman was immortalized in the children's TV show Arthur (TV Series) on PBS. He appeared in the tenth episode of the fourth season, where it was rumored by the characters that he would get in a fight with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who also appeared in the episode.
In 2000, Redman was named Artistic Director for the Spring Season of the non-profit jazz-presenting organization SFJAZZ. Redman co-founded the SFJAZZ with Executive Director Randall Kline, as the SFJAZZ Collective, an ensemble distinguished by the creativity of its members and a primary emphasis on composition. In March 2007, Redman announced that he was taking a hiatus from both the SFJAZZ Artistic Directorship and the SFJAZZ Collective in order to focus on new projects.
In 2004, Redman first sat in with Umphrey's McGee at their performance in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Paradise Rock Club. Redman has collaborated with Umphrey's McGee around 20 times since, including an all-improvised set in Madison, Wisconsin in January 2016.
In 2006, he performed with the New Zealand Symphony orchestra in composer John Psathas' concerto for saxaphone and drumkit, Omnifenix, which was released in Rattle Records' album, View from Olympus. The album won Best Classical Album for 2007 in the New Zealand music awards.
In April 2007, Nonesuch released Redman's first ever piano-less trio record, Back East, featuring Joshua alongside three bass and drum rhythm sections (Larry Grenadier & Ali Jackson, Christian McBride & Brian Blade, Reuben Rogers & Eric Harland) and three guest saxophonists (Chris Cheek, Joe Lovano and Dewey Redman). His January 2009 release, Compass, continued the trio tradition, and even included some tracks with a double-trio setup, featuring saxophone, two basses and two drummers.
Starting in late 2009, Redman began performing with a new collaborative band called James Farm, featuring pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland. They released their first self-titled album on April 26, 2011 and their follow-up album, City Folk on October 27, 2014.
Redman was also an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.
In early 2013, it was announced that Redman would release a new collection of vintage and contemporary ballads featuring a jazz quartet and an orchestral ensemble titled Walking Shadows. Produced by Redman's friend and frequent collaborator Brad Mehldau, the album also features Larry Grenadier (bass) and Brian Blade (drums). It was released on May 7, 2013 on Nonesuch. About Walking Shadows, the New York Times says "there hasn’t been a more sublimely lyrical gesture in his 20-year recording career."
On Sunday, December 8, 2013, Redman joined a group of jazz all-stars onstage at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC, to pay tribute to honoree Herbie Hancock in performance. The event aired on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:00 PM ET on CBS.
In 2015, Redman received his third Grammy nomination for his solo on "Friend or Foe" from the album The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.
In addition to his own projects, Redman has recorded and performed with musicians including Brian Blade, Ray Brown, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, The Dave Matthews Band, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Aaron Goldberg, Larry Goldings, Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Roy Haynes, Billie Higgins, Milt Jackson, Elvin Jones, Quincy Jones, Big Daddy Kane, Geoff Keezer, B.B. King, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz, DJ Logic, Joe Lovano, Yo Yo Ma, Branford Marsalis, Christian McBride, John Medeski, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Marcus Miller, Paul Motian, MeShell Ndegeocello, Leon Parker, Nicholas Payton, John Psathas, Simon Rattle, Dewey Redman, Dianne Reeves, Melvin Rhyne, The Rolling Stones, The Roots, Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Scofield, Soulive, String Cheese Incident, Clark Terry, Toots Thielemans, The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Mark Turner, McCoy Tyner, Umphrey’s McGee, US3, Bugge Wesseltoft, Cedar Walton, Stevie Wonder and Sam Yahel.
(releases on Warner Bros. and after 2002 on Nonesuch Records)1993: Joshua Redman
1995: Spirit of the Moment - Live at the Village Vanguard
1995: Blues for Pat: Live In San Francisco
1996: Freedom in the Groove
1998: Timeless Tales for Changing Times
2001: Passage of Time
2007: Back East
2013: Walking Shadows
2014: Trios Live
2015: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
2011: James Farm
2014: City Folk
With Bob Thiele Collective
1991: Louis Satchmo
With Chick Corea
1997: Remembering Bud Powell
With John Hicks
1992: Friends Old and New (Novus)
With Elvin Jones
1992: Youngblood (Enja)
With Jonny King
1996: Notes from the Underground (Enja Records)
With Joe Lovano
1993: Tenor Legacy (Blue Note)
With Christian McBride
1993: Gettin' to It
With Brad Mehldau
2010: Highway Rider (Nonesuch)
With Paul Motian
1993: Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band (JMT)
With Dewey Redman
1992: Choices (Enja)
1992: African Venus (Evidence)
With Cedar Walton
1997: Roots (Astor Place)
With Kurt Rosenwinkel
2005: Deep Song
With Sam Yahel
2007: Truth and Beauty (Origin)
With Trondheim Jazz Orchestra
2010: Triads and more
With Ferenc Nemeth
Chick Corea & Friends Live: Remembering Bud Powell (2000)