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Wasn't RED a GREAT Player?

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by powermans, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. I just had to come on-line and say that I spent the best part of 55 minutes looking at a program of "Jazz on Ovation"here on cable and caught a Five piece outfit led by Oliver Jones.
    The other personal on board were Herb Ellis, Ed Thigpen, a tenor player (I'm not certain of his name )and on Bass RED MITCHELL.
    And Red's the man that caught my attention BIG TIME! His method of playing may not stand up as "by the book"way of fingering ( Right Hand).... as I note, that a lot of the time he's playing (Right Hand Pizz) around the A or B note position on the E string. However, I just LOVE everything he does on this session.
    I have him playing on a number of CD's in my collection but, he doesn't come over the same on those recordings as he does with Oliver Jones outfit! Just Love It! :cool:

  2. Power, are you not aware that Red tuned his bass, at lleast during the last twenty or so years of his career in fifths? Anything Red did visually on the bass, because of the fifth tuning (an octave lower than the cello) confuses any "normal" bassist. I'm the resident EXPERT on Reds playing.....I think at times in my career I wanted to be Red Mitchell! Do a search under Reds name and alot of my ranting and ravings will come up. I loved him too!
  3. Dick Them

    Dick Them

    May 8, 2004
    Barcelona, Catalonia
    Endorsing Artist : Ampeg amplifiers
    I know a CD with Red Mitchell on it where he plays walking lines using often glissandos on the left hand,which I haven´t heard in any other bassist.The drummer is Ed Thigpen and the swing they achieve together is great.Therefore VIVA RED MITCHELL !!!!
  4. Most regulars on TBDB know better than to bring up Red Mitchells name on this board. They'll all be saying "There goes Warmbaton over on Bassists ..he's got another Red audience"
    Once i get goin' on him it's all over.
    Red was Scott LaFaros mentor. He bought Scotty his little Prescott bass at the same place and time that he bought his own Lowendall! He was also the one that got Scotties Prescott back to Sam Kolstein after the firery car crash. Red was also Gary Peacocks mentor as well as Charlie Haden. Red was the one who single handedley Got Ornette Coleman a record contract on Atlantic I think!
    Before he left L.A. to move to Stockholm (during the Kennedy assasinations as well as the King assasination) he was the most recorded double bassist in history with the possible exception of Milt Hinton. He was Principle bassist for MGM, in Hollywood, played on most of the great old classic movie soundtracks and did most of the Frank Sinatra...Nelson Riddle/Billy May Stuff.
    I think Reds Supreme compliment came from another supreme player...Jim Hall, who said something to the effect that Red was just as important as Lester Young in terms of his soloing abilities!
    If you aren't sick of Red by now just let me know....I got more!
    One of my favorite pieces of music in the world is on A Red Mitchell CD called "Home Suite" Where Red just plays in his living room alone with only his wife Diane present. One piece is a bass solo tribute to Cole Porter, serveral of Reds compositions Played on piano (Red was a GREAT jazz pianist!) with vocals by Red. Reds vocal qualities somewhat similar to Bert Lahr as the Lion in The Wizard of Oz, but 100% music.
    Anyway Red plays piano, sings and WHISTLES Body and Soul....His re-harmonization is astounding and the body of music that is the result is no less than a musical miracle. I've seen more than one BIG name player listen to this cut at my house and leave with tears in thier eyes!
    If you do that search under Reds name, the story should come up about how Red pulled off the change-over to 5th tuning. He did this really fast and the first gig with the new tuning was a HUGE movie orchestra date with Andre Previn conducting, playing and writing!
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I'll never get tired of hearing Red tales. Keep 'em coming.
    I like what he said about Jim Hall, something like "Jim is a great little band". How true. That was one of the great duos in jazz history.
  6. Paul, Bugger the other TBDBérs keep going, I'm absolutely taken with your knowledge of RED! I did NOT know about the fifth tuning and the ANY of the other superb info you have provided. Yes, I am now starting to look further into this master of the Bass and as soon as I type this , I'm off to Google to do a search on Red(as suggested). Tell me Paul, do you know why Red went after the fifth tuning. I must admit that I do NOT have a great knowledge in fifth tuning...can you explain this technique a little further....Do you have to use different string set-ups (EADG) in order to tune this way and, What do you get for your trouble? Look forward to some more stories.
    PS :- I'll have to have a closer listen to my CD "TRIO"Red with Jimmy Rowles , Donald Bailey. recorded 1989...a little before his death .
    More Please!!!! :hyper:
  7. My pleasure: The fifth tuning deal comes from a couple different places. With Red it was, at first,
    the need to get down to those lower notes. In the studios in the 50s and 60s when Red was so active in the Hollywood (just about when Red got fed up with the politics in this country, the before-mentioned assasinations and civil rights) The end of this period being the time when Red moved to Sweden and Ray Brown quit the road stuff with Oscar Peterson and moved to L.A. Another interesting side-bar for bassists was that this was the time when the great bass luthier Paul Toenniges was so active in L.A. Like anything Red was interested in, he championed Paul's talents in all kinds of work...turning four stringers into fivers. Reds first and most obvious move was to go to a five stringer to get down to that low B. In those big movie orchestras they needed at least one guy in the section to go down....(so to speak) Red took it on himself to be that guy. The fiver worked fine but Red had bigger ideas. He wanted to do some other stuff involving double and triple stops, and his melodic-bent ears craved another way to produce some of that horn-like quality in his playing. Also fifth tuning tension on the bass produced a different sound. Red needed a hell of alot of sustain to pull off some some of those left hand triplet figures he played. One of the qualities that fifth tuning helps in the orchestra is intonation. All the strings are tuned in fifths except the double bass. Other great bassists are doing the same thing. The great Canadian bassist Joel Quarrington is doing some wonderful stuff with 5ths.
    When Red started the new tuning, obviously, there were no strings available, so he had to use a solo G string tuned up to A, of course the D remained the same, the G, I guess was just an A tuned down a step and the low C was either a regular E tuned down to C or a B tuned up to C? I dunno.
    Again, Red comes up with the answer by talking Thomastik strings into making a complete set of fifth tuning strings.....still available i'm sure.
    As I mention in another post, listening to Red Mitchell play the bass is totally unlike anything in bassdom. Chis Fitz just mentioned the other day on the Sampler thread how he was working on that Red Mitcell time "Bounce" In L.A. before 5th tuning and even before steel strings when Red was playing with GUT strings, he got this wonderful "bounce" to his time playing and extended it into his fifth playing, although after the switch he didn't play every quarter note time wise because his sound was getting SO Long, it didn't lend itself to quarter note time playing. So, SCREW it, Red started comping more like a guitar player with double and triple stops and more of that "bounce" kind of in a Scott LaFaro interplay vibe.
    This is turning into an EPIC.....As far as Reds effect on me and my playing goes.....I had some serious luck in that Red was the first jazz bassist I ever heard, so I figured "I'll just copy this guy...he sounds good. He's probably good enough for me to cop. Later after not being able to afford to buy other records to expose myself (let me put that a different way) to other bassists I soon found out that Red was not run of the mill. We've always talked about writing down a bass solo and then having a horn play it back? Well, any bass solo Red Mitchell ever played sounded just as rich and dynamic on ANY instrument including the piano.
    I love Red Mitchell!
    I heard Red play in person two different times when he was in L.A. The first time....Something new....Steel strings. He was the first bassist I ever heard using steel strings. The next time...Something new...An Amp. He was the first bassist I ever heard using an Amp! Oh yeah, one more time at Shelley's ManneHole....fifth tuning.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I remember you playing a couple of cuts from that livingroom recording for me. I still talk about that.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I'm always amazed at the number of bassists, good ones, who have no idea who Red Mitchell was! After going through the litany of all the other obvious greats, a lot of them say "Red who?". Then the fun begins when you bust out a recording and give them their first glimpse of his genius. Hopefully, threads like this one will encourage folks to check out this great musician's work.
  10. I saw a cute piece in an old DownBeat about Red's bassist brother, Whitey. Apparently, Whitey carried a business card that read:

    I am Red Mitchell's brother.​

    Paul, what became of Whitey? Did he continue playing?
  11. Yeah, I remember. I only play Red's singing and whistling for very special people. You were one of them Ray! Reds vocal quality is so out, I only let people who really know how to listen hear it. That's some dangerous ****!
    Ray and I played some two bass stuff at my home that day. I like playing with Ray....the faces he makes are almost as gruesome as mine!
  12. Mike you are old! The card read:
    Yes, I am Red Mitchells brother. No, I haven't seen him.

    I meant to ask Reds wife Diane about Whitey and forgot. He use to play bass with Gene Krupa. They both took up bass at the same time.....Whitey in NY and Red in Germany while in the Army.
    Whitey Gordon Mitchell became a Very successful TV Comedy Writer. Dick VanDyke among his credits.
    I have a record called "Get Those Elephants Outa Here" Featuring Red, Whitey and Blue Mitchell (no relation) The title came from the Mitchells Mother who would yell that at the brothers when they would play their basses in the Mitchell living room, when she'd be trying to vacuum!
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Set up a camera next time. And a recorder.
  14. Let's just say I've got an old soul! :D

    Actually, in the office where I work, there are bound copies of DownBeat going back to 1955, which I sometimes devour on my lunch hour (or when the boss isn't looking).
  15. Paul, Where can I buy YOUR book !
    What a GREAT read!!!!
    Thanks :hyper:

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Red Mitchell is a big influence on my playing. He is one of the first bassist that really attracted me to the instrument. I have toyed with the idea of tuning in 5ths for a few years but haven't got around to it. I think I may try it this summer though....totally different way of thinking the bass.
  17. power, i'm an old dude who's been through all the wars...I got stories upon stories and to be able to tell you guys all this stuff is a great thing for me!
    Adrian, i'd love to see another bassist go the fifth route! I got as far as using a fiver but ran out of nerve when it came to the fifth tuning. A little too old I guess. The two things I wished i'd done is the fifth tuning and the Rabbath stance!
    I promised to post my experiences when I worked with Bill Evans and Philly Joe in the 60s and that'll be coming up soon.
    The version I sent to Bob Branstetter needed a little editing....but soon! Thanks you guys!
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I will give it a try in a month or so. I am only 21 so I have a few years to learn the craft;) I have quite a few gigs this summer though, and I don't think I will be able to jump back and forth with a lot of ease, so we'll see what happens!

    This thread prompted me to listen to all of my CD's with Red Mitchell....I think I am finally going to ditch the Slap and focus on DB.
  20. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Paulie, you wanna write a book ? I run a music publishing house...;-) when I'm not persuing my avocation.