Red Rodney was a dynamic and creative player, displaying inventiveness and thorough mastery of his instrument in all bop and post-bop settings. Primarily known as Charlie Parker’s trumpet player, Red Rodney went on to become a legend himself and made several dramatic comebacks during his career to solidify his reputation as a bebop trumpeter and keeper of the flame.
Rodney was a highly experienced big band trumpeter but was already experimenting with bebop. In 1949, with his reputation as a rising bop star fast gaining ground, he joined the Charlie Parker quintet (via an introduction from Dizzy Gillespie). For the next two years he was acclaimed as one of the best bebop trumpeters around and was certainly among the first white players to gain credibility and acceptance in the field.
In the later years, Rodney took up the flugelhorn to great effect. Playing better than ever before, he was in demand all over the world for clubs, concert halls and festivals and in his final years some of the best musicians of the younger generation, notably the remarkable saxophonist Chris Potter, queued up to join his band.
In 1990, Rodney was inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame. Three years later Rodney released the album Then And Now, a compilation of originals and modernized jazz standards. In 1992, Rodney traveled to England to perform with drummer Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones. The subsequent year, Red made several prominent appearances, appearing at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center, and at the White House where he performed for president Bill Clinton.
“I don’t play like I played back in the early days with Bird. I play like today and that’s what these young musicians help bring to me. I give them roots and traditions from fifty years of playing this music. They weren’t around when this music was born, but they had quite a bit of experience playing it because any Jazz musician has to go through the Bebop era.”.
— Red Rodney