Born: September 20, 1927 Primary Instrument: Bass
Keith Moore Mitchell (September 20, 1927, New York City - November 8, 1992, Salem, Oregon), better known as Red Mitchell, was an American jazz double-bassist, composer, lyricist, and poet.
Red was raised in New Jersey by a father who was an engineer and loved music, and a mother who loved poetry. His first instruments were piano, alto saxophone, and clarinet. Although Cornell University awarded an engineering scholarship to Mitchell, by 1947 he was in the US Army playing bass. The next year he was in a jazz trio in New York City.
Mitchell became known for performing and/or recording with Mundell Lowe, Chubby Jackson, Charlie Ventura, Woody Herman, Red Norvo, Gerry Mulligan, and, after joining the West Coast jazz scene in the early 1950s, with Andre Previn, Shelly Manne, Hampton Hawes, Billie Holiday, Ornette Coleman, and others. He also worked as a bassist in the TV and film studios around Los Angeles, occasionally appearing on screen. Mitchell also appeared in documentaries about Tal Farlow, and Zoot Sims.
Saxophonist Harold Land and Mitchell founded and co-led a quintet in the early 1960s. In 1966, Red began tuning his bass in fifths (as the violin, viola, and cello are tuned), and his tuning method opened up many possibilities for bassists.
Mitchell moved to Stockholm in 1968 and he won Swedish Grammy Awards in 1986 and 1991 for his recorded performances as a pianist, bassist, and vocalist, and for his compositions and poetic song lyrics.
During this period, Mitchell performed and/or recorded with Clark Terry, Lee Konitz, Herb Ellis, Jim Hall, Joe Pass, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Bill Mays, Warne Marsh, Jimmy Rowles, Phil Woods, Roger Kellaway, Putte Wickman and others. He frequently collaborated in duos, most notably with pianist Kellaway after the mid-1980s.
Returning to the United States in early 1992, Mitchell settled in Oregon where he died at age 65 later that year. A collection of his poetry was published posthumously. His widow is preparing a biography.