Red Rodney

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Red Rodney
Red Rodney, ca. June 1946 (William P. Gottlieb).jpg
Red Rodney, c. June 1946
Background information
Birth name Robert Chudnick
Born (1927-09-27)September 27, 1927
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died May 27, 1994(1994-05-27) (aged 66)
Boynton Beach, Florida
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1942–1994
Labels Savoy, Fantasy, Muse, Sonet, Steeplechase, Chesky
Associated acts Charlie Parker, Ira Sullivan
Rich Matteson, Red Rodney, and Ira Sullivan at the Village Jazz Lounge in Walt Disney World; photo: Laura Kolb

Robert Roland Chudnick (September 27, 1927 – May 27, 1994), known professionally as Red Rodney, was an American jazz trumpeter.


Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he became a professional musician at 15, working in the mid-1940s for the big bands of Jerry Wald, Jimmy Dorsey, Georgie Auld, Elliot 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.[1]

He accepted an invitation from Charlie Parker to join his quintet.[2] and was a member of the band from 1949–1951.[1] As the only white member of the group, he was billed as "Albino Red" when playing in the southern United States. During this time he recorded extensively.

During the 1950s, he worked as a bandleader in Philadelphia and recorded with Ira Sullivan. He became addicted to heroin and started a pattern of dropping in and out of jazz.[2] In 1958 he left jazz because of[citation needed] diminishing opportunities, lack of acceptance as a white bebop trumpeter, and legal problems due to his heroin 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.[citation needed]

In 1963, 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.[citation needed] In September 1963, his father died; a month later, while his wife was driving him back from a Las Vegas gig, she lost control of their car and plunged down a Nevada highway embankment. Asleep in the back seat, he awoke to find his wife and 14-year-old daughter dead.

During 1969, Rodney played in Las Vegas with fellow Woody Herman colleague, trombonist Bill Harris, as part of the Flamingo casino house band led by Russ Black. Similar work continued through 1972.

In the early 1970s he was bankrupted by medical costs following a stroke. He returned to jazz. In 1975 he was incarcerated in Sandstone, Minnesota for drug offenses.[citation needed] While jailed he gave music lessons to guitarist Wayne Kramer of the MC5.

He reunited with Ira Sullivan and performed with Dizzy Gillespie.[2] From 1980 to 1982, Rodney made five albums with Sullivan. On these albums he started to play post bop jazz. He continued to work and record into the 1990s. He performed on a Charlie Parker tribute album by Charlie Watts, drummer for the Rolling Stones. He provided an early showcase for saxophonist Chris Potter, who was a member of his group and only 19 years old when Rodney recorded Red Alert in late 1990.

He performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and the JVC Jazz Festival. He worked as an adviser for Bird, a movie about Charlie Parker directed by Clint Eastwood.[2][1] Michael Zelniker played him in the movie.

Mark Rodney, Red Rodney's son, was a guitarist with the acoustic duo Batdorf and Rodney. Rodney's youngest son, Jeff Rodney, is a musician and disc jockey known as Jammin' Jeff.[citation needed]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Clifford Jordan

With Lee Konitz

With Ira Sullivan

With the Bob Thiele Collective

  • Louis Satchmo (1991)


  1. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "Red Rodney | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Watrous, Peter (28 May 1994). "Red Rodney, Jazz Trumpeter And Band Leader, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2017. 


  • Fresh Air on WHYY, December 30, 2002
  • Morton, Richard and Cook, Brian. The Penguin Guide to Jazz, New Edition, London, Penguin, 1994
  • Morton, Richard and Cook, Brian. The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, sixth Edition, London, Penguin, 2002, ISBN 0140515216