A competent vibraphonist, Mr Charles had a fruitfull and innovative musical career, although overlooked.
If not ranking amongst the top players, his flexibility led him, during the 50's, to record as a sideman with Miles, Mingus, Pettiford, or Slim Gaillard.
Then busy doing his own stuff, including a good dozen records for Prestige, he eventually became a producer, before completely retiring from music for some silly "I'm off to the Caribbean" reason, where he happily lived until a late come-back to NYC in the 80's.
A very interesting personnality, highly contrasting with the traditionnal hard-bop myths-and-misery clichés, jazz fans should definitely take a closer hear to their Mingus to catch him, or even try his very own Evolution (Prestige).
Teddy Charles (April 13, 1928 – April 16, 2012) was an influential American jazz musician and composer whose instruments were the vibraphone, piano, and drums.
Born Theodore Charles Cohen in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, he studied at the Juilliard School of Music as a percussionist. Later he began to record and made personal appearances as Teddy Cohen with bands as a vibraphonist, writing, arranging and producing records, in 1951 changing his last name to Charles.
Charles was one of many jazz musicians who hung out at an apartment building at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City known as the Jazz Loft rented by photographer and artist David X. Young, who in turn sublet two apartments to Hall Overton (Charles's mentor) and Dick Cary. Known as an innovator, Charles's main work was recorded in the 1950s, creating some highly influential and sought-after futuristic, polytonal recordings such as "New Directions", "Collaboration: West", "Word from Bird" and "The Teddy Charles Tentet". Charles also did session work with musicians and singers as varied as Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Shelly Manne and Dion. He was also a co-leader of the highly praised studio group, the Prestige Jazz Quartet. He recorded an album, Live at the Verona Jazz Festival, for the Italian Soul Note label in 1988.
Charles was the captain of the skipjack Pilgrim out of Greenport, New York (on the North Fork of Long Island), and performed music locally. In his last years, Charles began performing again after spending some years at sea. Charles last recording was the 2011 collaboration/recording with Wily Bo Walker and Danny Flam featuring the song "You Don't Know What Love Is".
Charles died in 2012, just three days after his 84th birthday.