Reference: FSRCD 1671
Bar code: 8427328616713
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Vi Redd (1928 -) began singing in church at the age of five and, after studying piano for a while, went on to blow a C Melody saxophone that her great-aunt Alma Hightower, a noted music teacher, had given her at 10 years old, while she was still in high school.
In 1948, she started performing on neighborhood sessions while continuing to study music and making social science her major. In 1954 after she graduated from the L.A. State College, she played and sang with small local bands, such as the Dick Hart orchestra, among others. At the same time, she discovered the obstacles that explained the scarcity of jazzwomen. “I can’t see any advantages for a girl musician. I found nothing but disadvantages,” explained Vi. In 1957, she decided to gave up music and only came back to jazz after three years as a county social worker.
From March 1962, Vi began playing a regular Monday night gig at the Red Carpet Room in Los Angeles. What immediately stood out about her was that few musicians had a more Bird-like sound or a more grounded blues feel than her. In addition to her skills on the saxophone, she was a singer with warm, gospel and blues timbre.
Vi's unique sound quickly made her the talk of the town, leading to the recording of her debut album, 'Bird Call,' showcasing her soulful playing and singing backed by two groups of prominent jazz musicians. The initial lineup features trumpeter Carmell Jones and vibraphonist Roy Ayers, while the second group includes guitarist Herb Ellis. Both rhythm sections are anchored by pianist Russ Freeman and Vi's spouse Richie Goldberg on drums. On double bass, Leroy Vinnegar and Bob Whitlock provide the steady groove. The album, which was produced with the assistance of critic and producer Leonard Feather, received critical acclaim upon its release on the United Artists label.
After the success of 'Bird Call', in 1963 Vi Redd released a second album titled "Lady Soul" under Atlantic Records. Her name quickly became well-known due to frequent appearances at jazz festivals throughout the US and internationally as a soloist with Count Basie's orchestra, which toured Europe and Africa. She also played in various clubs from Copenhagen to Tokyo.
Unfortunately, Miss Redd's reputation might have been more in keeping with her talent if the only two albums she made as a leader hadn't been taken off the market for years. Despite facing obstacles and being temporarily out of the picture for various periods of time, Vi Redd persevered and continued to pave the way for many other talented women of jazz throughout her career.
"Vi Redd (1928-2022) was a bluesy and boppish alto-saxophonist with a powerful sound and a driving style. She should have had much more fame and work but she was based in Los Angeles rather than New York during much of her life, and also faced the discrimination against female instrumentalists. While she had stints with Earl Hines, Max Roach, and the Count Basie Orchestra, Redd spent much of her life as an educator and made remarkably few recordings despite her talents. She made a single with trombonist Al Grey, appeared on a couple of obscure live albums with Basie, had guest appearances on a song apiece with Johnny Almond, Gene Ammons and Howard McGhee, and was featured on her last recording in 1977, playing in an all female quintet with Marian McPartland.
Otherwise, Vi Redd only led two albums of her own, Lady Soul in 1962-63 and the slightly earlier 1962 album Bird Call. The latter has been reissued by Fresh Sound. Bird Call showcases Vi Redd with two groups: a sextet with trumpeter Carmell Jones, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, pianist Russ Freeman, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Richie Goldberg (her husband), and a quintet with Freeman, Goldberg, guitarist Herb Ellis, and bassist Bob Whitlock. In addition to her lively Charlie Parker-inspired alto solos, Redd also shows on some of the selections that she was an effective jazz singer.
Other than performing Leonard Feather’s “I Remember Bird” and “I’d Rather Have A Memory Than A Dream,” all of the songs on this album had been recorded years earlier by Charlie Parker. Vi Redd sounds in prime form throughout and makes one regret that her career did not go a lot further."
—Scott Yanow (September, 2023)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene