Charles "Red" Richards

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Charles "Red" Richards' epic dedication to vintage jazz styles, such as stride piano, began in the latter half of the '30s with bandleader Skeets Tolbert. Six decades later he was still going…
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Charles "Red" Richards' epic dedication to vintage jazz styles, such as stride piano, began in the latter half of the '30s with bandleader Skeets Tolbert. Six decades later he was still going strong, nibbling at Eubie Blake's record of longevity until he died on-stage during a 1998 performance in Westchester County, New York. He seemed to find employment with his craft in periods when many other players on the jazz scene were scuffling, a good example being his long stint at New York City's Crawdaddy club in the '70s.

He was born Charles Richards but should not be confused with an electronica producer of the same name who obviously came along quite a bit later. Making use of the common nickname of "Red" took care of that problem for the most part, but credits do exist for the jazz piano man which take a more formal approach to his name. However identified, his resume is nothing if not impressive. Coming out of a strong Fats Waller influence, Richards worked in the rhythm sections of trumpeters Roy Eldridge, Bobby Hackett, and Muggsy Spanier as well as with saxophonists Sidney Bechet, Bob Wilbur, and Tab Smith.

During the late '50s the pianist took part in several impressive Fletcher Henderson reunion bands. In the final part of that decade, he worked alongside Wild Bill Davison -- a collaboration that continued into the '60s. Richards became the leader of the Saints and Sinners combo in 1964, a solid swing and New Orleans jazz outfit which toured Europe in 1968 and 1969. In his later years he concentrated more on solo piano performances including sushi-saturated stretches at Tokyo piano bars.