There are three volumes, and many more chapters to the life of trumpeter Red Rodney, from both a professional and a personal standpoint. One famous chapter in Volume One was depicted in the film Bird: when a 21-year old Red joined Charlie Parker for a three-year stint with that legendary master. (Red plays on the Bird soundtrack and was director Clint Eastwood's close advisor on the film.) The "Albino Red" episode, the Jewish wedding scene, the descent into addiction... all of that's in the movie. Musically, as Red says, "the years with Parker were like college and graduate school combined."
But that was toward the end of Volume One. The saga started in 1927, when Robert Rodney Chudnick was born in Philadelphia. (To skip ahead, the City of Brotherly Love honored Red in 1990, when the Mellon Jazz Festival there was dedicated to him.) A child prodigy on the instrument given to him on his Bar Mitzvah, Red was playing with the Jerry Wald Orchestra at 15, then with Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Les Brown, George Auld, Claude Thornhill and Gene Krupa. From there to 52nd Street, where Red played with greats like Ben Webster and Don Byas, and then on the road with Woody Herman's famous "Four Brothers" band. Then came Bird, after Red's introduction by Dizzy Gillespie into the revolution of bebop. (Skipping again, it was Dizzy who presented Red with the 1990 Down Beat Hall of Fame Award at the Village Vanguard, a regular Rodney venue.)
Volume Two of the Red Rodney story is one of adversity... Las Vegas pit bands; dental problems; a sojourn in Europe; addiction and its related problems. It was an all-to-familiar story for jazz men in that period, but Red's tale is perhaps the most colorful. It is one of a determined and resourceful man who kept his compass, if not always at true North, still within a few degrees.
Volume three...that's the current one, the story of comeback and triumph. Back in the States in 1978, Red teamed with the young pianist Garry Dial, and then with multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan. Recordings on Muse and Elektra/Musician brought two Grammy nominations. Then his move to Continuum Records and, in 1990, his entry into the Downbeat Hall of Fame, and his further recognition by Dowmbeat readers: Number one Acoustic Jazz Group, Number Two trumpeter and Number Six Overall Jazz Musician of 1990. Red was back home and in demand. Home in more ways than one. Red's comeback coincided with his marriage to his current wife, Helene, who inspires him daily as the "Red Arrow" continues on a straight and upward path.
That path leads right into the 21st Century. A guru to his young sidemen, the cream of the new crop of musicians, Red is always open to the new. Witness his latest, Then And Now, which marks his debut on Chesky Records. With this album, Red seeks to further align the old with the new as Then And Now features some of the best music from Red's past, arranged in a thoroughly modern way by Red amd arranger Bob Belden, combined with a group of young Jazz Virtuosos from the present. With this release, Red has realized a life's dream.
"For years, Rodney's visits to Chicago have been among the most ebullient events on the calendar, as sure a guarantee of musical excellence as there is in the transient world of jazz. Once again, Rodney proved true to form, offering the kind of inspired improvisations that have placed him on virtually everyone's list of first-rank trumpeters." - Chicago Tribune
"Red Rodney achieved jazz immortality early, joining bebop founder Charlie Parker's quintet when he was just 21. Rodney is still one of the brightest and most consistently inventive bop style trumpeters on the scene. His current quintet, featuring teenager Chris Potter on saxophones, is one of the best bebop-based jazz groups around today. - The Sunday Star-Ledger
"...The straight-ahead cuts...that feature Rodney at his be-bop best, paired frequently with the young, feisty and very promising saxophonist Chris Potter." - The Washington Post
"This is a rare opportunity to hear an instrumentalist who has helped to shape the history of modern jazz. His flowing style and vitality is powerful and he immediately projects this to the audience from his first note of the opening themes and subsequent improvisations." - The Hong Kong Standard
"It's hard to believe that 40 years ago young, white trumpeter Red Rodney was making waves as a key member of bebop pioneer Charlie Parker's groundbreaking quintet. It's also hard to believe that Rodney, now 65, still plays with the fire and fury of those jazz-mind-boggling days, but the evidence is in." - The Toronto Star