For the past twenty-five years I’ve researched the life and music of the very unknown and brilliant saxophonist and composer, Sonny Red. This has always been a labor of love that started after listening to one of Sonny’s early records on the Jazzland label called Images. It wasn’t until I transcribed this entire record of his solos that I realized the simplicity and beauty in Red’s music. His music was firmly rooted in bebop and the blues, but still had a very personal, vocal approach to the music. The older I get, and the more technical players have become over the years, it’s always a breath of fresh air to get back to Sonny’s records. Sonny was all about playing pretty and swinging. Red wasn’t the next “new thing” but he really meant everything he played, which is something of a lost art form today.
Red was also constantly evolving as a musician and composer. Just listen to how his approach to the saxophone by the mid 1960s had almost completely changed from his previous more linear bop style. Sonny was a true artist in every sense of the word. He was a “musician’s musician” as we would say.
The website includes many pages devoted to different areas of Sonny’s life. A short history, discography, music manuscripts/scores, posters, record reviews and many private pictures and recordings have been included. Hopefully this information will provide a better understanding of who “Sonny Red” was. Sonny was part of the army of talented jazz musicians who made important contributions to the world of music, but at times never got the recognition they so deserved. Now’s the Time for these stories to be told.
Some of this material appeared in the Annual Review of Jazz Studies put out by the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in 2003. I am very thankful to everyone at the Institute for providing guidance and support.
This entire journey has been a team effort. I couldn’t have done this without the generous help from the Kyner/Kiner family. I can’t thank Nicole Kyner enough, who from day one, was so involved in helping get her dad’s story out to the world. Additonal thanks go to Jaffiria Leach-Orr who was repsonsible for the Sonny Red celebration tribute at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2014. What a memorable weekend that was!
And a final thanks to all of the Detroiters involved. Lars Bjorn, Jim Gallert, Malvin McCray, James Richardson, Charles Boles, Claude Black, Yusef Lateef, Barry Harris, Curtis Fuller, Kiane Zawadi, Tommy Flanagan, Phil Lasley, Frank Gant, Frank Foster, Charles McPherson and Louis Hayes. May their stories live on.