Teddy Charles


Teddy Charles (April 13, 1928 – April 16, 2012) was an 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 he changed 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, with polytonal albums such as New DirectionsCollaboration: WestWord from Bird, and The Teddy Charles Tentet. He was a studio musician for Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Shelly Manne, and Dion. He was also a co-leader of the Prestige Jazz Quartet. He recorded an album, Live at the Verona Jazz Festival, for Soul Note in 1988.

Charles was captain of the boat Pilgrim out of Greenport, New York (on the North Fork of Long Island) and performed music locally. In his last years, he began performing again after spending some years at sea. His last recording was the 2011 collaboration with Wily Bo Walker and Danny Flam featuring the song "You Don't Know What Love Is".

He died in 2012.


As leader

  • New Directions (Prestige, 1953)
  • Collaboration West (Prestige, 1953)
  • Evolution (Prestige, 1953–55)
  • The Teddy Charles Tentet (Atlantic, 1956)
  • Word from Bird (Atlantic, 1956)
  • Vibe-Rant (Elektra, 1957)
  • Coolin' (New Jazz, 1957)
  • 3 for Duke (Jubilee, 1957)
  • The Prestige Jazz Quartet (Prestige, 1957)
  • Salute to Hamp (Bethlehem, 1959)
  • Something New, Something Blue (Columbia, 1959)
  • On Campus – Ivy League Jazz Concert (Bethlehem, 1960)
  • Jazz in the Garden at the Museum of Modern Art (Warwick, 1960)
  • Russia Goes Jazz (United Artists, 1963)
  • Live at the Verona Jazz Festival (Soul Note, 1988)
  • Dances with Bulls (Smalls, 2008)
  • Teddy Charles and the Walter Wolff Trio Live (OAP, 2008)

As sideman

With Bob Brookmeyer

  • The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer (Prestige, 1954)

With Miles Davis

  • Blue Moods (Debut, 1955)

With Thad Jones

  • Olio (Prestige, 1957)

With Eric Kloss

  • Grits & Gravy (Prestige, 1966)

With Teo Macero

  • Teo - with the Prestige Jazz Quartet (Prestige, 1957)

With the Metronome All-Stars

  • Metronome All-Stars 1956 (Clef, 1956)

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