Freddie Redd was an American bebop and hard bop pianist, composer, and bandleader. Self-taught, he was a deft soloist whose inventive left hand, capable of creating chords and countermelodies simultaneously, was widely celebrated. Though established as a bandleader and sideman from the mid-'50s on, he is best known for composing the music to Jack Gelber's The Connection, an off-Broadway play staged by the Living Theatre, depicting the lives of heroin-addicted jazz musicians -- he appeared as one in the production. His 1960 Blue Note album The Music from The Connection is among the label's most iconic titles, along with 1961's Shades of Redd. After leaving Blue Note, Redd spent decades roaming and playing around the globe but recorded infrequently. During the 1970s, he released Under Paris Skies and In Sweden. He moved to California in the late 1970s and led dates for Interplay Records. In 1989, Mosaic Records released The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Freddie Redd, which included a previously unissued album from the early 1960s. His two final outings, Music for You (2015) and With Due Respect (2016), appeared on SteepleChase.

Redd was born in New York City in 1928 to Freddie, a porter, and Helen, a homemaker. His father was a pianist but died before the child was two, leaving the keyboard for him to discover. Though his mother moved around New York's various boroughs, the piano always traveled with them. Redd began teaching himself to play as soon as he could comfortably reach the keys from the bench. His primary interest, however, was in the drums. That early obsession influenced his piano playing later on; Redd's sense of rhythmic invention and propulsion proved a distinctive aspect of his formidable style. As a young teen in Harlem, Redd would often skip school to see Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jay McShann, and Earl Hines at the Apollo Theater.

Redd was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1946. While serving in South Korea during the late 1940s, another GI played him Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker's bebop hit "Shaw 'Nuff," and it changed the direction of his musical life. Discharged in 1949, Redd returned to New York. He had developed his chops while in the service and began getting work at home. Between 1951 and 1954, he worked with trumpeter Cootie Williams and guitarist Tiny Grimes, with whom he had his first recordings as a sideman. He broke out in 1955, appearing on albums by trumpeter Art Farmer, vibraphonist Joe Roland, and saxophonist Gene Ammons.

That same year, Redd shared Piano: East/West (Savoy) with pianist Hampton Hawes -- they each led half the LP -- and released Introducing the Freddie Redd Trio on Prestige. In 1956, he served as pianist on Rolf Ericson the American All Stars. In 1957, he led a trio for San Francisco Suite on Riverside, and in 1958 released Get Happy with Freddie Redd for the U.K.'s tiny Nixa label that featured trumpeter Benny Bailey and bassist Tommy Potter.

In 1959, Redd was commissioned to compose original music for Jack Gelber's play The Connection. In both the Living Theatre's off-Broadway production and Shirley Clarke's 1961 film, he played the role of musician and actor alongside saxophonist Jackie McLean and others. Blue Note signed Redd and released the recorded score as The Music from The Connection in 1960. The following year, Redd issued the quintet offering Shades of Redd with saxophonists McLean and Tina Brooks, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Louis Hayes. He recorded a third album for the label, but due to a dispute between Redd and Blue Note's Alfred Lion, it was shelved until 1989.

The pianist left the U.S. in 1962 for an extended stay in Europe. He spent years living and working in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and France as well as England. His only known recorded appearance between 1961 and 1970 was playing organ on James Taylor's first single, "Carolina in My Mind," at Apple Studios in 1968. In 1971, Redd released the trio outing Under Paris Skies with a French rhythm section, and in 1973 he issued In Sweden accompanied by old friends Potter and drummer Joe Harris. Redd returned to the United States in 1974 and headed for California. He spent the next 15 years between Los Angeles and San Francisco. He became a valued member of the northern and southern California jazz scenes and led a band that played clubs across Mexico -- he even moved for a time to Guadalajara.

In 1977, Redd released Straight Ahead! with bassist Henry Franklin and drummer Carl Burnett on the Interplay label, and followed with the solo outing Extemporaneous a year later. He continued to work bandstands in California, but he spent more and more time playing resort gigs in Mexico -- where he was given free rein in choosing his musicians and material. He gigged more than once with Mexican jazz pioneer/drummer/composer Tino Contreras. Redd also returned to Europe for festivals, club gigs, and occasional tours.

In 1988, Redd's Blues, his unreleased 1961 Blue Note outing, appeared for the first time, and was followed by Mosaic Records' limited-edition The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Freddie Redd. He returned to New York to record 1989's Lonely City for the independent Uptown label, leading a septet that included Clifford Jordan, Ben Riley, and George Duvivier. In 1990, he released Live at the Studio Grill with drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Al McKibbon. He followed with the studio album Everybody Loves a Winner for Milestone in 1991, leading a sextet that included saxophonist Teddy Edwards and trombonist Phil Ranelin.

Redd moved to North Carolina to care for his ailing mother in late 1991. After her death in 1995, he returned to New York City, then moved to Pittsburgh for close to a decade. While it was his home base, he continued to work and travel internationally. He released Freddie Redd and His International Jazz Connection in 1998. Redd moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 2009. He went on a large European tour in 2013 and undertook several recording sessions.

In 2015, he issued his SteepleChase debut, Music for You with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Billy Drummond. The following year, he released the sextet date With Due Respect, featuring the previous set's trio, plus trombonist John Mosca, saxophonist Chris Byars, and clarinetist Stefano Doglioni. Redd retired from music at the age of 87 and returned to New York City. In January 2021, Washington, D.C.'s Bleebop Records released the unissued 2013 recordings Baltimore Jazz Loft -- a quartet offering co-led with bassist Butch Warren -- and the quintet album Reminiscing, which included bassist Michael Formanek. Redd died of natural causes in March 2021. He was 93. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

Freddie Redd Live at The Studio Grill
“The Music From The Connection” (Usa, 1960) de Freddie Redd Quarter
Freddi̲e̲ R̲e̲d̲d̲ – S̲h̲a̲d̲e̲s̲ O̲f̲ R̲e̲d̲d̲ (1̲9̲6̲0̲)̲
Freddie Redd - Music Forever
Freddie Redd - O.D. (Overdose)
Freddie Redd - Who Killed Cock Robin
Freddie Redd - People's Park
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