Saxophonist Alvin “Red” Tyler, born in New Orleans on December 5, 1925, is an indispensable figure in the evolution of rhythm and blues. Best known for his work with legendary R&B label, Ace Records, his musical prowess and distinctive sound influenced generations of musicians in jazz, R&B, and beyond.
Raised in a city known for its vibrant musical tapestry, Tyler was initially inspired by local jazz musicians before his passion for the saxophone truly blossomed during his high school years. After serving in World War II, he returned to New Orleans, where he pursued formal music studies under the tutelage of the renowned saxophonist and clarinetist, Lester Young.
In the early 1950s, he became a part of the Cosimo Matassa‘s studio band, a cradle of New Orleans R&B, where he backed up notable figures such as Fats Domino and Little Richard. Tyler’s tenor saxophone was a crucial element in the band’s signature sound, which was characterized by a sturdy rhythmic foundation and blues-infused melody lines.
By the mid-50s, Tyler became a vital part of Ace Records, contributing not only as a session musician but also as an arranger. He crafted melodies and beats that supported the vocals without overshadowing them, making him an invaluable asset to the record company. He was often paired with tenor saxophonist Lee Allen, and together, they established a hard-driving R&B sound that became synonymous with New Orleans music.
Despite the commercial decline of New Orleans R&B in the early 60s, Tyler’s career continued to flourish. He joined AFO Records, a cooperative label established by a group of local musicians, where he further showcased his talents in arranging and performing.
While his work in the 70s and 80s was less prolific, Tyler remained a revered figure in the music scene. He returned to recording and performing in the 1990s, reminding audiences of his exceptional talent. His later albums, such as “Heritage” and “Graciously,” showcased a more jazz-oriented style, reflecting his musical growth.
Tyler passed away on April 3, 1998, but his legacy continues to resonate in the music industry. His contributions to rhythm and blues, and the broader musical landscape, remain evident in the countless musicians he influenced. A saxophonist, arranger, and a stalwart of New Orleans R&B, Alvin “Red” Tyler’s name will forever be etched in the annals of music history. His enduring influence and unique sound continue to inspire, exemplifying the power and longevity of authentic, soulful music.
Page last updated 7/8/2023.