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Teddy Charles

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Teddy Charles is a true rarity: a jazz musician who largely retired from the business. A skillful if not overly distinctive vibraphonist and (early in his career) quite capable on piano and drums, Charles was as important for his open-minded approach in the 1950s toward more advanced sounds as he was for his playing. He moved to New York to study percussion at Juilliard in 1946, but instead became involved in the jazz world. He had short stints with the big bands of Randy Brooks, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Buddy DeFranco, and Chubby Jackson from 1948-1951 and then played with combos headed by Anita O'Day, Oscar Pettiford, Roy Eldridge, and Slim Gaillard. He also became a member of the Jazz Composers' Workshop (1953-1955) along with Charles Mingus and Teo Macero, opening his style up to the influences of classical music and freer improvising. Charles, who recorded with Mingus, Miles Davis, and Wardell Gray, among many others, began leading his own stimulating record dates in 1951, and by 1953 he was also working as a record producer, a field that took much more of his time from 1956 on. He led his own sessions for Prestige, Atlantic, Savoy, Jubilee, Bethlehem (where he produced around 40 records, mostly for other artists), and Warwick from 1951-1960, but was hardly heard from in the 1960s, other than a 1963 set for United Artists. Charles relocated to the Caribbean, where he opened a sailing business. After participating in a 1980 jam session, he eventually moved back to New York, making a "comeback" record for Soul Note in 1988, but still remaining semi-retired from music. ~ Scott Yanow

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Birth Name:

Theodore Charles Cohen


April 13, 1928 in Chicopee Falls, MA

Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s