In an all too small discography, Freddie Redd's Shades of Redd is without a doubt his crowning achievement. Completed after a successful stint composing music for the stage play The Connection, Redd wrote music specifically geared for his two formidable front line saxophonists -- emerging alto giant Jackie McLean and the unsung hero of the tenor, Tina Brooks. Redd, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Louis Hayes, fresh out of the Detroit scene, took New York City by storm playing clubs and working with Redd when he was not doing production music. All of these tracks, originals by Redd, are brimming with the hope, optimism, and fresh ideas of the early '60s, music perfectly rendered and representative of the time period. The darting, daring, tart sweet alto of McLean and the robust, lean, protein enriched tenor of Brooks fit beautifully together when they play in unison, and they do that a lot. The calm, lovely, then bursting into bop piece "The Thespian" sets the tone, followed by the swinging, head nodding "Blues-Blues-Blues," and the happy, hip, swing/shuffle "Melanie" brings the cream to the top. The teamwork displayed here rivals any seasoned veteran band of the era. Redd's piano playing, never spectacular or boisterous, is instead literate and street smart, and comes to the forefront in any tempo, whether the fleet hard bopper to Latin tinged near-show tune "Swift" and the spicy calypso to swing strutter "Ole," where Brooks steps up and takes a marvelous John Coltrane cum Hank Mobley solo. McLean's feature on "Just a Ballad for My Baby" illustrates his unique style, slightly but purposefully using microtones that might seem somewhat off-putting to the non-cognoscenti, but is remarkable upon closer inspection. Considering this is 1960, and Ornette Coleman was also making his way beyond conventional means, McLean is innovating just as much. Stretched out alternate takes of "Melanie" and "Ole" are included on this single CD, and are also available on Redd's 1988 Mosaic label reissue of his complete Blue Note efforts. Redd is still alive as of this writing, performing occasionally in his Los Angeles area home and in New York in 2007 for a revisited production of The Connection. Shades of Redd, his zenith as a jazz musician, would be a wonderful addition to any collection, and shows that the lesser known musicians have plenty of music to play, in addition to a unique perspective aside from the giants of this music.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos