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Red Mitchell

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Red Mitchell
Rune Gustafsson, Red Mitchell, and Egil "Bop" Johansen, Down Town jazz club, Oslo, 1972
Rune Gustafsson, Red Mitchell, and Egil "Bop" Johansen, Down Town jazz club, Oslo, 1972
Background information
Birth nameKeith Moore Mitchell
Born(1927-09-20)September 20, 1927
New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 8, 1992(1992-11-08) (aged 65)
Salem, Oregon, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
LabelsBethlehem, Contemporary, Atlantic, Mercury, Sonet, SteepleChase, Artists House, All Life, Enja

Keith Moore "Red" Mitchell (September 20, 1927 – November 8, 1992)[1] was an American jazz double-bassist, composer, lyricist, and poet.


Mitchell was born in New York City. [1] His younger brother, Whitey Mitchell, also became a jazz bassist.[1]

Mitchell was raised in New Jersey by a father who was an engineer and loved music, and a mother who loved poetry. His first instruments were piano, alto saxophone, and clarinet. Although Cornell University awarded him an engineering scholarship, by 1947 he was in the U.S. Army playing bass. The next year, he was in a jazz trio in New York City.

Mitchell performed and/or recorded with Mundell Lowe, Chubby Jackson, Charlie Ventura, Woody Herman, Red Norvo, Gerry Mulligan, and, after joining the West Coast jazz scene in the early 1950s, with André Previn, Shelly Manne, Hampton Hawes, Billie Holiday, Stan Seltzer, Ornette Coleman, and others such as Mahalia Jackson.[1] He also worked as a bassist in television and film studios around Los Angeles, occasionally appearing on screen. Mitchell also appeared in documentaries about Tal Farlow and Zoot Sims.

Saxophonist Harold Land and Mitchell founded and co-led a quintet in the early 1960s.[2]

Mitchell moved to Stockholm in 1968.[3] He won Sweden's Grammis Award in 1986 and again in 1991, for his recorded performances as a pianist, bassist, and vocalist, and for his compositions and poetic song lyrics.

During this period, Mitchell performed and/or recorded with Clark Terry, Lee Konitz, Herb Ellis, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Ben Webster, Bill Mays, Warne Marsh, Jimmy Rowles, Phil Woods, Roger Kellaway, Putte Wickman and others. He frequently collaborated in duos, most notably with pianist Kellaway after the mid-1980s.

The Swedish government awarded Mitchell the Illis quorum in 1992.[4]

Returning to the United States in early 1992, Mitchell settled in Oregon,[2] where he died of a stroke at age 65 on November 8, 1992.[5]

A collection of his poetry was published posthumously. His widow is preparing a biography.[as of?]

Technique and playing style[edit]

Mitchell used standard tuning during the 1950s and for the first half of the 1960s, and produced sound similar to his professional jazz bass peers.[6] However, "in 1966 he switched to cello tuning on his bass (C-G-D-A, an octave below the cello, instead of the standard E-A-D-G). At the same time, he began adjusting the tone controls of his amplifier to create a soft, unfocused sound in the lowest notes and to emphasize the upper harmonics in higher notes. The result was an airy tone quality that sounded gentle, not muscular. This airy tone and his frequent habit of strumming the strings with his right thumb contributed greatly to his unusual style."[6]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Billie Holiday

With Mose Allison

With Gene Ammons

With Chet Baker

With Louis Bellson

With Paul Bley

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Red Callender

With Buddy Collette

With Tony Crombie

  • Rockin' with the Rockets – 1958 (Columbia (UK:33S1108) (10") - (Red Morris, Jimmy Currie, Ashley Kozak, Clyde Ray (vocals)

With Maynard Ferguson

With Tommy Flanagan

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Jim Hall

  • Jazz Guitar (Pacific Jazz, 1957)
  • Good Friday Blues (Pacific Jazz, 1960) as The Modest Jazz Trio

With Herbie Harper

  • Five Brothers (Tampa, 1955)

With Hampton Hawes

With Paul Horn

With Stan Kenton

With Barney Kessel

With Karin Krog

With Johnny Mandel

With Shelly Manne

With Warne Marsh

With Gil Mellé

With Jack Montrose

With Gerry Mulligan

With Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca

With André Previn

With Shorty Rogers

With Dick Rosmini

With Pete Rugolo

With George Russell

With Bud Shank

With Zoot Sims

  • In a Sentimental Mood (Sonet, 1985)

With Pierre Strom

  • Rallarvisor (YTF Records, 1973)

With Clark Terry

  • Out of Nowhere (Bingow, 1978)
  • Brahms Lullabye (Bingow, 1978)
  • Funk Dumplin's (Matrix, 1978)

With Cal Tjader

With Ben Webster

With Magni Wentzel


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 286/7. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b "Red Mitchell | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  3. ^ Leonard Feather (April 5, 1983). "Red Mitchell Brings His Bass Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 3, 2012. Red Mitchell, a Swedish resident for 14 years, is getting to spend more and more time back home these days and had to come from New York for his ...
  4. ^ "Regeringens belöningsmedaljer och regeringens utmärkelse: Professors namn". Regeringskansliet (in Swedish). January 2006. Archived from the original on November 2, 2021. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  5. ^ "Keith "Red" Mitchell". Orlando Sentinel. November 11, 1992. Retrieved September 3, 2012. Keith "Red" Mitchell, a jazz bassist who played with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Mitchell ...
  6. ^ a b Owens, Thomas (1996). Bebop. Oxford University Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-19-505287-9.

External links[edit]