Vi Redd, a trailblazing alto saxophonist and vocalist, holds a distinctive place in the history of jazz. Known for her robust and lyrical tone, Redd’s contribution to the jazz landscape, particularly as a woman in a predominantly male industry, has left an indelible mark.
Born in Los Angeles in 1928 to a family deeply immersed in music, Redd was exposed to the world of jazz at an early age. Her father, Alton Redd, was a noted drummer who played with legends like Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, providing the young Redd with invaluable insight into the world of professional musicianship.
Redd’s career began to take off in the 1950s. Her talent on the alto saxophone, coupled with her compelling vocal abilities, quickly made her a popular fixture on the West Coast jazz scene. Her style, a seamless blend of hard bop and soulful blues, was both unique and captivating, setting her apart from her contemporaries.
Despite the challenges posed by the gender biases of the era, Redd’s formidable talent could not be ignored. In 1961, she was invited to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival, a testament to her growing reputation. Her performance at this prestigious event marked a turning point in her career and solidified her standing in the jazz community.
Redd’s recording career, though not as prolific as some, produced some truly memorable works. Her albums “Bird Call” (1962) and “Lady Soul” (1963) showcased her dual talents as a saxophonist and vocalist. The records resonated with the energy and depth of Redd’s live performances, earning critical acclaim.
In addition to her performing career, Redd was also a dedicated educator. She received her Master’s degree in Education from San Diego State University and spent several years teaching music in the Los Angeles public school system. Her commitment to passing on the jazz tradition to the next generation was a significant aspect of her life’s work.
Throughout her career, Vi Redd stood as a beacon for aspiring female musicians in a male-dominated industry. Her talent, resilience, and dedication to her craft have served as an inspiration for countless musicians.
Page last updated 6/18/2023.