Vibraphonist’s New Album Features John di Martino, Lewis Nash, Nicki Parrott and Jerry Weldon
In his impressive career, vibraphonist and drummer Chuck Redd has performed alongside many legendary musicians, Charlie Byrd
, Mel Torme
, Dizzy Gillespie
, and Monty Alexander
among them. Noted by The Washington Post for his “melodic sparkle,” and praised by Jazz Times for his “exquisite” work on the vibes, Redd will release his sixth album as a leader, Groove City
, on March 1.
On the new album, Redd is joined by a stellar cast of players: John Di Martino on piano, Nicki Parrott on bass, Lewis Nash on drums, and Jerry Weldon on tenor saxophone. “When I conceived of this recording,” says Redd, “I visualized a group of like-minded musicians…who not only valued a deep sense of time or groove, but who also were not bound to one harmonic approach or rhythmic direction.”
Indeed, the synergy that occurred in the studio when the group gathered to record the eleven tracks on Groove City
is on spirited display from the first note of the opening track, “The Great City.” Though there are many renditions of this song, Redd drew inspiration for his arrangement from Shirley Horn
, who recorded it on her 1963 album, Shirley Horn with Horns
. Redd says he’s “always loved Shirley’s wonderful combination of excitement and nonchalance on songs like this. She never tries to ‘sell’ a song. Instead she allows it to unfold with confidence and relaxed conviction.”
“A Groove for Gail,” was written for Redd’s wife and is the first of two original songs on the album. Inspired by Gail’s “smile, spirit and love for any music that makes her want to move,” the track opens with a funky R&B feel which, after simmering a while, swings hard.
Redd has frequently worked with Monty Alexander, whose inspiration can be heard on two of Groove City
’s tracks: “Renewal,” on which the slow crescendo of the band’s solos builds intensity and harmonic movement before ending with the two simple notes with which the song began; and “Regulator,” a hot riff tune that opens with Lewis Nash’s crackling funk beat before breaking into a swinging 4/4 feel.
Charlie Byrd has also played a significant role in Redd’s musical life. On Groove City
, Antonio Carlos Jobim
’s tune “Wave,” which Redd performed countless times during his 19 years in Byrd’s trio, is here reworked as “Tide,” with Nicki Parrott’s ethereal, wordless vocal seemingly floating on the vibes.
“I’ve loved Ornette Coleman
’s ‘Lonely Woman’ since I first recorded it in 1996 (on drums) with clarinetist Ken Peplowski
,” says Redd. “I’ve recently been listening to Freda Payne’s gorgeous version from the late '60s, so we used the bridge chords from that record,” he continues. “Rather than take individual solos, John and I share the melody and then move into some interplay. We all just went in with a concept and then let it unfold. When everyone is open, there’s magic in doing that.”
The second original on the album is the medium tempo, straight-ahead blues, “Blues in the Shedd,” which Redd dedicated to one of his “homes away from home,” The Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene Oregon. “On the head, I was feeling the spirit of Milt Jackson’s and Cedar Walton’s groups. Hearing Milt and Cedar live, which I did many times, was always a joyous experience. They were always grooving and they always appeared to be genuinely grateful to be there.” That spirit particularly resonates with Redd, who imbues every performance, live or recorded, with a similar sense of gratitude. “Be grateful you’re here and visualize the groove,” is his credo. “At a certain point, content, technique, intensity and taste all fall into place if the groove is there. And being grateful is always a path to positivity and joyful music.”
An actual Groove City
might not be found on any map; for Redd it represents a ubiquitous state of mind. “It’s any bustling, gritty, urban community that is bursting with energy and diversity. It could be New York, DC, Philadelphia
, Los Angeles
or New Orleans
, or even an imaginary place that combines the energy and creativity of all of those cities.” That energy and creativity permeate every track on Groove City
, inviting listeners to stop and spend some time in Redd’s grooving world.
About Chuck Redd
Chuck Redd is known as one of the performers on the jazz circuit today who is equally adept on the drums and vibraphone, and who had the good fortune to have been influenced, mentored, and performed with some of the true masters of his craft.
His parents were not musicians, but loved music, so Chuck was exposed to a wide variety of music around the house. While attending Montgomery College he came under the tutelage of pianist/composer/arranger Bill Potts
. “It’s hard to describe how much Bill Potts taught me about music and being a musician. He first took me to New York City when I was 18 and arranged for me to sit in with the great saxophonist, Al Cohn
, at the legendary Half Note.”
When he was 21, he began touring the globe with the Charlie Byrd Trio. That led to his joining the Great Guitars, a group that included Byrd, Barney Kessel
and Herb Ellis. For five years, he was the featured vibraphonist with the Mel Torme All-Star Quintet, which included two concerts at Carnegie Hall.
He has made over 25 European tours and six tours of Japan with artists such as Ken Peplowski, Terry Gibbs
, Conte Candoli
, and the Benny Goodman
Tribute Orchestra. He performed at the White House with the Barney Kessel Trio, has appeared on The Tonight Show, and traveled to Africa with the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet to perform for the Namibian Independence Day celebration.
He went on to become a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, a gig that lasted for 15 years. Redd served as artist-in-residence at the Smithsonian Jazz Café (2004-2008) and was the featured soloist in the finale concert at the Lionel Hampton
International Jazz Festival with the Lionel Hampton Big Band and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Chuck calls a 2007 appearance with the Milt Jackson
Tribute Band “one of my greatest honors.” His new recording, Groove City
, is just one of the more than 80 recordings that feature Chuck’s musical talents. He can also be heard on the soundtracks of The Great Chefs television series and the NPR broadcast of Jazz Smithsonian.
Currently on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Music, Chuck maintains a busy schedule, performing in DC and New York City as well as touring the US. He was the 2014 honoree at the Roswell (New Mexico) Jazz Festival and winner of New York’s Hot House Jazz Magazine Fan-Decision Award as the best vibraphonist in 2015 and 2016. Chuck is the Musical Director for the 2019 Oregon Festival of American Music.