Red Rodney


Red Rodney

Robert Roland Chudnick (September 27, 1927 – May 27, 1994), who performed by the stage name Red Rodney, was an American bop and hard bop trumpeter.

Born in Philadelphia, PA, he became a professional musician at 15, working in the mid-1940s for Jerry Wald, Jimmy Dorsey, Georgie Auld, Elliott Lawrence, Benny Goodman, and Les Brown. He was inspired by hearing Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to change his style to bebop, moving on to play with Claude Thornhill, Gene Krupa, and Woody Herman. In 1949 he accepted an invitation from Charlie Parker to join his quintet. As the only white member of the group he was billed as Albino Red when playing in the racially segregated southern United States. In 1950 he joined the Charlie Ventura band. He also recorded extensively.

In 1958 he left jazz because of diminishing opportunities, lack of acceptance as a white bebop trumpeter, and problems with the police about his drug addiction. He continued to work in other musical fields. Although he continued to be paid well, he supported his drug habit through theft and fraud, eventually spending 27 months in prison. In the early 1970s he was bankrupted by medical costs following a stroke and returned to jazz. He also managed to give up drugs during the 1970s. Though at least in 1975 he was incarcerated in Kentucky for drug offences. While jailed he gave music lessons to guitarist Wayne Kramer of the MC 5.

From 1980 to 1982, Rodney made five highly regarded albums with multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. In these albums he started to play post-bop jazz. He continued to work and record into the 1990s. He provided an early showcase for saxophonist Chris Potter, who was a regular member of his working group and only 19 years old when Rodney recorded "Red Alert" in late 1990.

References

* Fresh Air from WHYY, December 30, 2002
* Morton, Richard & Cook, Brian: "The Penguin Guide To Jazz", New Edition, London, Penguin, 1994
* Morton, Richard & Cook, Brian: "The Penguin Guide To Jazz on CD, sixth Edition, London, Penguin, 2002, ISBN 9-14-051521-6


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