Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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REDD, Elvira 'Vi'

(b 20 September 1928, Los Angeles CA) Alto and soprano saxes, also singer. She came from a musical family to combine the harmonic vocabulary of bebop with a blues feeling. Her father Alton Redd was a prominent drummer; aunt Alma Hightower had her own band and taught a lot of young musicians. 'She was my auntie and she was a musician,' she told Dave Gelly. 'It never occurred to me that there was anything unusual in a woman being a musician, but I soon found out. Men can be very strange. They don't mind so much if you're playing piano ... but you stand up beside them with a saxophone or a trumpet and it's like you're challenging them. A lot of them just can't take it.' Vi recorded for United Artists (Solid State) and Atco (Atlantic) '62-3, and unissued tracks with a Max Roach quintet in London '67, the year she stayed ten weeks at Ronnie Scott's, setting a record for an American musician in a British club. She toured with Count Basie '68 ('Stormy Monday Blues' captured on video at the Juan-Les-Pins Festival), had also appeared on the Charlie Parker Memorial Album on Cadet, sang on the Gene Ammons album The Chase '70 on Prestige, and guested with Roland Kirk at UCLA '74; but had given up the road to raise her family and teach in Los Angeles schools. Retired from that, she was back in London '94 at Pizza Express, playing and singing as well as ever.