16 JAN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Red Rodney's jazz star shone so brightly and rose so quickly that he played his first show when he was just 15 and assumed the trumpet chair in the Charlie Parker quintet, in the frontline opposite one of modern music's most mercurial and controversial stars, at age 20. The Red Rodney Quintets (Fantasy, 1999) puts together nearly twenty tracks not available since the 1950s.
The first 12 feature tenor saxman Ira Sullivan and the remainder pair Rodney up with Jimmy Ford on alto and tenor plus three guys named Phil (no joke). Both sets mix originals with standards, including several ballads, for a comprehensive overview of Rodney's prowess.
That sound beautifully sings, in harmony and contrast with Sullivan's tenor, through the stylishly Latin "Red Is Blue," while "The Baron" swings a dapper groove. "I Love The Rhythm In A Riff" reaches back to the hazy, crazy days of early bebop with jumpy rhythms and hipster vocals. Rodney's "Red Wig," one of those ridiculously paced and twisted bop tunes that seem written to keep less accomplished players off the bandstand, flips even further out. "Laura" sings Rodney's early debt to Harry James in a sound romantic but not overly sentimental, with phrasing sharp yet tender.
You can hear Rodney with Bird on Charlie Parker (Prestige, 2007), as part of The New Oscar Pettiford Sextet (Original Jazz Classics, 1999) and with Dizzy Gillespie on the three live album set Triple Play (Telarc, 1998), Gillespie's final live recordings at the hallowed Blue Note.