Freddie Redd

Freddie Redd, born May 29, 1928 and died March 17, 2021 was an American hard-bop composer and pianist. Redd is most well-known for his music that accompanied Jack Gelber’s 1959 play, The Connection. Peter Watrous of The New York Times writes that Redd used to hang out at jam sessions during the 1950’s, played with many major players, Art Blakey to Sonny Rollins, and also worked with Charles Mingus regularly. He moved on when things got difficult and lived in Guadalajara in Mexico and Paris, as well as London and London. Redd was born in New York City and grew up there. His father died at the young age of one. Redd was raised by his mother who lived in Harlem, Brooklyn, and other areas. Redd was an autodidact who began playing piano at the age of eighteen. He started studying jazz when he turned 18 after a friend gave him a recording of “Shaw’Nuff” by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Dizzy Guillspie while he served in Korea (1946-1949). After being discharged from the Army in 1949 he began working with Johnny Mills as a drummer, and later in New York he played with Tiny Grimes and Cootie William, Oscar Pettiford, and the Jive Bombers. Art Blakey was his partner in 1954. Redd visited Sweden with Ernestine Anderson, Rolf Ericson in 1956. Redd’s greatest success was in the 1950s, when he was asked to compose the music of The Living Theatre’s New York stage production The Connection. This music was later used in the 1961 film. He was an actor and musician in both film and play. The troupe performed in New York City and London. It was a modest success and they toured Europe. Redd also produced a Blue Note album featuring his music, which featured Jackie McLean as alto sax. Redd’s success with the theater production did not help his American career. He moved to Europe shortly after, spending time in France and Denmark. In 1974, he returned to the United States and settled on the West Coast. He became a regular participant on the San Francisco scene and continued recording intermittently until 1990. He settled in Baltimore in 2011. Redd had a difficult time establishing himself commercially. However, his unique voicings and inventive compositions helped him to be a household name. He worked with many musicians, including Tina Brooks (Jackie McLean), Howard McGhee and Lou Donaldson. Redd was even an organist on James Taylor’s 1968 recording of “Carolina In My Mind”. Redd was a leader on several albums, including two Blue Note albums. However, the last one was not released for many years. His three Blue Note albums were reissued in 1989 as The Complete Blue Note Recordings Of Freddie Redd. The liner notes stated that Jackie Mclean said: “You never know where you’ll find [Freddie]”. He has always been an itinerant. Freddie appears occasionally, as a wonderful spirit.” Redd made a European tour in 2013. Redd, a 92-year-old man, died in New York City on March 17th 2021.

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