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.
1963 proved to be the deepest challenge; during a run-in with police, a detective hit him in the mouth, loosening several teeth and starting the cycle of dental issues that continued into the 1970s when he made a comeback. In Sept. 1963 his father died and a month later, while his wife was driving him back from a Las Vegas gig, his wife lost control of their car, plunging down an embankment on the Nevada highway. Rodney, asleep in the back seat, awoke to find his wife and 14-yr. old daughter dead.
During 1969, Rodney was in Las Vegas playing alongside his fellow Woody Herman colleague, trombonist Bill Harris, as part of the Flamingo casino house band led by Russ Black. Similar work continued through 1972.
Red Rodney, trumpet, flugelhorn
Dick Oatts, alto sax, tenor sax
Garry Dial, piano
Jay Anderson, bass
John Riley, drums
3. What'll I Do?
4. Sonato for Joan
5. For you
6. Red snapper
8. Greensleeves/Giant Steps
"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins