Freddie Redd (1928-2021)


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Freddie Redd, a hard-bop pianist whose funk-driven, percussive style and sophisticated sense of harmony were reminiscent of Horace Silver but whose recording output seemed thinner than his initial promise, died March 17. He was 92.

Born in New York and largely self-taught, Redd recorded sporadically in the 1950s as a sideman, disappearing for blocks of time while touring. In the decades that followed, Redd seemed to shy away from exposure. Two of his most important albums as a leader were for Blue Note, but a third fell short and wasn't released until years later, a misstep that may have affected his confidence and determination in the years that followed.

In February 1960, Redd recorded what is widely considered to be his masterpiece—Music From “The Connection"—an original soundtrack for an avant-garde, dramatic play in New York centered on the lives of drug-addicted jazz musicians. The quartet on the album featured Freddie Redd (p), Jackie McLean (as), Michael Mattos (b) and Larry Ritchie (d).

Redd's followup album for Blue Note in August 1960 was Shades of Redd, featuring Redd (p), Jackie McLean (as), Tina Brooks (ts), Paul Chambers (b) and Louis Hayes (d). The quality of Redd's originals and the playing by all of the musicians was superb, placing the album on par with Music From “The Connection."

And then for some reason, his third album recorded for Blue Note in January 1961 was ill-conceived and short on his earlier brilliance. Shelved by the label, the material wasn't issued until 1988 as Redd's Blues, first on vinyl and then on CD in 2002. The album featured Benny Bailey (tp), Jackie McLean (as), Tina Brooks (ts), Freddie Redd (p), Paul Chambers (b) and John Godfrey (d).

Listening again to all three albums yesterday, the first two remain remarkable, but Redd's Blues clearly was rushed into the studio. It lacks the compositional edge and cohesiveness of Redd's first two for Blue Note, and came off more like a half-baked rehearsal than a finished product. The one song that stands out is Redd's Somewhere. But in all fairness to Redd, if all he ever recorded were the first two Blue Note albums, his contribution to jazz would be important.

Here's Music From “The Connection," the full album...

Here's Shades of Redd, the full album...

And here's Redd's Blues, the full album...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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