Christmas tied up with a ribbon of jazz

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary,Holidays

Chuck Redd, the homegrown master of vibraphone and drums, his brother, pianist Robert Redd, the lively husband and wife team of trumpeter Tom Williams and vocalist Delores Williams, drummer Lenny Robinson and bassist James King welcome one and all to celebrate Christmas Day with them. For the 14th year, their All-Star Jazz Jam on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage is the perfect conclusion to a happy day.

"The first time we offered the show, I had no idea how well it would be received," Chuck Redd said. "I'd played at the opening of the Millennium Stage and knew that it was a great new venue, but I didn't expect how many people would come out. They filled the hall then, and there seem to be more every year.

"This is such a compatible group, like a big family. Robert and I play together so much that we don't have to rehearse, and Tom plays great jazz on his trumpet, while Delores adds a Broadway flair with her theatrical element that comes from being a member of the Capitol Steps.

"For the past eight years, my son Charlie has played guitar with us, but he's now a film student at NYU and not able to be with us. What we all enjoy most about sharing our music on this occasion is playing in front of not just jazz fans, but also lots of families who might be wandering by and are attracted to the music. Once they discover us, many return year after year."

Onstage
All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam
Where: Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Info: Free; 800-444-1324; 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org

Redd can't remember when he didn't want to become a musician. As a young drummer, he soon was a familiar face about town playing with local jazz artists. After his teacher recommended him to Charlie Byrd, the guitarist invited him to sit in with him. One night, Redd subbed for Byrd's regular drummer, not realizing that this was an audition. When out of the blue Byrd invited him to go on tour, Redd was on his way to a busy career at age 21 as a member of the Charlie Byrd Trio and the Great Guitars.

Over the years, Redd has toured Europe more than a dozen times and Japan five times with the Barney Kessel Trio, played vibraphone with the Mel Torme All-Star Jazz Quintet and was a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra for 15 years. He has performed with jazz stars too numerous to mention and has been featured on more than 70 recordings.

Redd has remained in Washington throughout his career and now is on the faculty of the University of Maryland, where he encourages his students to develop the joy and passion he has for jazz. One of them, drummer Isabelle Deleon, will join the ensemble on the Millennium Stage on Christmas Day.

"All of us will enjoy playing for the audience," Redd said. "We hope that our music lifts their hearts and sends them away with a smile."

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Emily Cary

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner