Charles, Teddy [Cohen, Theodore Charles]
- Noal Cohen
[Cohen, Theodore Charles]
(b Chicopee Falls, MA, April 13, 1928, d Riverhead, NY, April 16, 2012). American jazz vibraphonist, composer, arranger, and record producer. Although initially a drummer, he found his true calling as a vibraphonist and by the late 1940s had emerged as one of a handful of musicians capable of adapting that instrument to bebop. While studying percussion at the Juilliard School, he met the composer Hall Overton who was an important influence in the development of Charles’s distinctive approach to jazz performance. His first significant recordings took place between 1952 and 1955 for Prestige, which resulted in a series of albums called New Directions. Strikingly fresh and innovative, this music was based upon the integration of the written and improvised portions of a jazz piece in a manner that afforded new challenges and opportunities for the artists involved. The culmination of these efforts came in 1956 with the formation of the Teddy Charles Tentet; this group’s landmark recordings for Atlantic drew critical acclaim. In addition to the leader, other notable writers including Gil Evans, George Russell, and Jimmy Giuffre contributed to the ensemble’s unique repertoire. Always in search of ways to expand the jazz vocabulary, Charles established associations with like-minded individuals including the bass player Charles Mingus, the pianist Mal Waldron, and the saxophonist Teo Macero. In addition, he often participated in studio sessions led by pop and rhythm-and-blues artists and produced recordings for Prestige, Bethlehem, and Warwick. In the late 1960s he left music to concentrate on his other life passion, sailing. From the 1980s until his death in ...