Freddie Redd, a pianist and composer who released two well-received albums for Blue Note Records in the early 1960s and then jumped through cities for more than half a century as ambassadors for the golden age of jazz, died on March 17 by a year of nursing home in Manhattan. He was 92 years old.
His grandson Leslie Clarke said he died in his sleep but did not give a reason.
Mr. Redd is best known for writing the music for “The Connection” (1959), an off-Broadway play by Jack Gelber that portrayed the life of heroin addicted musicians in New York and made a prestigious film two years later It was directed by Shirley Clarke. Mr. Redd appeared in both.
Largely autodidact, Mr. Redd was particularly known for his compositions and skills as an accompanist. Even when he was the soloist, the chords on his left hand were often as rich as the improvised lines on his right hand.
The Music From ‘The Connection’, released in 1960, was Mr. Redd’s first album for Blue Note; In 1961 the celebrated “Shades of Redd” followed with an all-star band: alto saxophonist Jackie McLean (who also appeared in “The Connection”), tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Louis Hayes.
He recorded material from another album in 1961, but those tapes were put on hold after Mr. Redd quarreled with one of Blue Note’s founders, Alfred Lion. It was finally released in 1988 as “Redd’s Blues”. His studio career slowed and by the mid-1960s he had moved to Europe, where his presence became a symbol for the audience of a disappearing Halcyon age in small group jazz.
Born in New York, Redd reversed the pilgrimage of most great jazz musicians: he began his career at the center of the jazz universe and then moved out. And moved and moved again.
From the mid-1960s, he spent stretches in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Guadalajara, Baltimore and Carrboro, NC. In his 80s he returned to New York, where he recorded two albums for the SteepleChase label and spent his final years.
Mr Redd told the New York Times that his peripatetic career had given him creative satisfaction, if not always fair pay.
“I like to move,” he said in a 1991 interview. “It’s always refreshing because you don’t know the nuances and tricks of the new place. Unfortunately, the price I paid as an underdog is a lifestyle that wasn’t particularly supportive. But I don’t regret it. There’s a lot to discover, and sometimes you just can’t do it in a week or a month. “
Freddie Redd Jr. was born on May 29, 1928 in Harlem to Freddie and Helen (Snipes) Redd. His father was a doorman who played the piano at home and his mother was a housewife. His father died when Freddie was 2 years old, but he left behind the instrument Freddie would teach himself to play.
In addition to his grandson, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Redd survives a step-daughter, Susan Redd; two other grandchildren; and two bootlegs. His wife Valarie (Lyons) Redd died before him, as did his children Stephanie Redd and Freddie Redd III.
Mr. Redd was drafted into the army in 1946. He later recalled hearing Bebop for the first time while stationed in South Korea, on a record played by another service member. He was addicted.
After returning to New York in 1949, he began playing with leading figures such as Art Blakey, Gene Ammons, Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer. In 1955 he recorded his first album “Freddie Redd Trio” for Prestige and spent time in California with Charles Mingus.
“During this time we realized that we are a brotherhood. We were all looking for the same topic, ”Redd told The Times, recalling his colleagues on the modern jazz scene in the 1950s. “We were drawn to the inspirational aspect of the music. It was a wonderful time. “
After he was arrested for marijuana possession, he lost his cabaret ticket, a document issued by law enforcement and required by anyone performing in nightclubs. Unable to work in clubs, he moved to a loft in Greenwich Village and became part of a scene that included visual artists, poets, and other musicians.
It was there that Mr. Redd met actor Garry Goodrow, who had just been cast in The Connection, a new play at the Living Theater that intimately showcased the lives of heroin addicted musicians. This led to an introduction to Mr. Gelber, who commissioned him to compose the music and perform as a member of the cast.
Although the film version of “The Connection” is now recognized as a classic of indie cinema, its raw and unshakable portrayal got into the crosshairs of censors in the US, where it was rarely shown.
A few years later, on one of his few pop studio dates, Mr. Redd was the organist on James Taylor’s debut single, “Carolina in My Mind”.
Jackie McLean reflected on Mr. Redd’s chimeric career in the liner notes for a Mosaic Records set, “The Complete Blue Note Recordings by Freddie Redd” (1989). “You never know which city you will see,” wrote the pianist. “He’s always been on the go. Freddie only appears like a wonderful ghost from time to time. “