All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Profiles

275

Encore: Teddy Charles

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
A music experimenter and theoretician, Charles combines as many common and unorthodox elements as possible in a jazz context...
Over a post blizzard mid-February brunch just off Central Park West, one of jazz' neglected masters, Teddy Charles (who turns 75 this month) recalled one of his first recordings - clarinetist Buddy DeFranco's 1949 sextet featuring drummer Max Roach and guitarist Jimmy Raney. Six months prior was the vibraphonist's recording debut which was with Chubby Jackson's big band. 40 years later, and after a semi-comeback in the early '80s, the mallet man recorded his final session to date, Live at the Verona Jazz Festival (Soul Note, 1988). "When I've got something to document musically...," was his open-ended response to the lack of sessions on which he leads or participates.

A music experimenter and theoretician, Charles combines as many common and unorthodox elements as possible in a jazz context: spontaneous counterpoint, irregular and swinging rhythms, modality, polytonality, atonality, unfamiliar harmonies, sustained notes that echo into oblivion, and a teetering yet natural balance between composition and improvisation. Helping to discover new forms within jazz during the post-bop and "cool" phases of the music, the liberating interplay Charles encouraged made his music intense, fresh, and well ahead of its time.

With pride, he considers his most significant recording, the recently reissued A Word From Bird (1956) with Charles Mingus and Hall Overton, both whom he considers his greatest musical associations along with Roach. Also highly recommended are Charles' Prestige recordings such as Ezz-thetic (1952) -which in one form was issued as the first in several volumes of New Directions and, more recently, reissued by Fantasy as Collaboration West. It sticks out as especially modern, abstract, and atonal with a hint of pre-Miles modality and an element of sophisticated contemporary classical influence. Charles successfully foreshadowed the vibraphone experimenters of the '60s in Bobby Hutcherson and Walt Dickerson, yet could also swing on a dime. The Tentet session on Atlantic features the compositions and arrangements of Mal Waldron (a long-time collaborator of Charles' who co-led with him the Prestige Jazz Quartet), as well as Jimmy Giuffre, Gil Evans, and George Russell.

So, where is Teddy Charles? Well he's here; always has been. The avid sailor continues to play mostly cruises, around Key West in the wintertime and regularly in his hometown of Greenport, NY. A recent collaborator is guitarist Joshua Breakstone. Charles' music retains the modernity from his heydey when he was affiliated with Mingus’ Jazz Workshop through the early '50s.

Time to give credit where credit is due, as Charles' music still has boundless lessons to teach. He has shown that the "in" and the "out" not only can happily co-exist but, combined, can thrive to break ever newer ground. Having performed with Charlie Parker, recorded with Miles Davis, and produced and supervised sessions for John Coltrane—Charles' is undeniably a living legend—his inactivity should serve as inspiration for record producers to make some calls. A Mingus alum band would certainly not be out of the question, and would be more than welcome; clarinetist John LaPorta, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, trombonist Jimmy Knepper, and alto saxophonist John Handy are also all still around and playing. Charles looks forward to performing again in New York, great news for the jazz community at large, especially so for New Yorkers. Reacquaint, or acquaint yourself (as the case may be), to one of jazz' quiet though not quite forgotten pioneers - Teddy Charles. We hope you'll be hearing much more from him in the not too distant future.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool Profiles
Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool
by Arthur R George
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland Profiles
Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland
by Charles Suhor
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018 Profiles
Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 17, 2018
Read Remembering Tomasz Stanko Profiles
Remembering Tomasz Stanko
by AAJ Staff
Published: July 29, 2018
Read SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In Profiles
SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In
by Arthur R George
Published: July 19, 2018
Read Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night Profiles
Kuumbwa And The Magic of Monday Night
by Arthur R George
Published: July 2, 2018
Read "SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In" Profiles SFJAZZ: Decades After, Five Years In
by Arthur R George
Published: July 19, 2018
Read "Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland" Profiles Don Suhor: From Dixieland to Bopsieland
by Charles Suhor
Published: September 2, 2018
Read "Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018" Profiles Aretha Franklin, The Lady Soul: 1942 - 2018
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 17, 2018
Read "Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018" Profiles Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 7, 2018
Read "Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool" Profiles Istanbul’s İKSV: An Intensity Beyond Cool
by Arthur R George
Published: October 17, 2018