Red Rodney

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Red Rodney
Red Rodney, c. June 1946
Red Rodney, c. June 1946
Background information
Birth nameRobert Chudnick
Born(1927-09-27)September 27, 1927
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMay 27, 1994(1994-05-27) (aged 66)
Boynton Beach, Florida
Years active1942–1994
LabelsSavoy, Fantasy, Muse, Sonet, Steeplechase, Chesky
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),[1] 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.[2] He was Jewish.

He accepted an invitation from Charlie Parker to join his quintet.[1] and was a member of the band from 1949 to 1951.[2] Being the only white member of the group, when playing in the southern United States he was billed as "Albino Red" as a ruse to avoid prejudice against mixed race musical combos.[3] 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.[1]

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 Lexington, Kentucky for drug offenses. While jailed he gave music lessons to guitarist Wayne Kramer of the MC5.[4]

He reunited with Ira Sullivan and performed with Dizzy Gillespie.[1] 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.[1][2] Michael Zelniker played him in the movie.

Rodney died on May 27, 1994, from lung cancer.[1]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Watrous, Peter (May 28, 1994). "Red Rodney, Jazz Trumpeter And Band Leader, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "Red Rodney | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Red Rodney". The Independent. 1994-05-31. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  4. ^ Oates, Bridget (January 7, 2015). "Wayne Kramer's "Prison Jazz" Roots". Guitar Player. Retrieved September 3, 2018.


  • 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

External links[edit]