Drummer Tony Reedus Dies at 49

Tony Reedus, a drummer who worked with Woody Shaw and many others, as well as recording under his own name, died of a pulmonary embolism on November 16. Reedus collapsed at New York’s Kennedy Airport after returning home from a gig in Italy, where he had performed with keyboardist Mike LeDonne. Attempts to revive him by an ambulance crew were unsuccessful. He was 49.

According to a biography on his Web site, Reedus was born in Memphis in 1959, took up drums at age 14, and soon after started playing with his school band. Inspired by his uncle, veteran Jazz Messengers pianist James Williams, Reedus became interested in playing jazz and began developing his conceptions in high school through private studies and analysis of the styles of personal influences such as Chick Webb, Art Blakey, Louis Hayes, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Victor Lewis.

After high school graduation, he enrolled at Memphis State University in 1978. In addition to music studies, he worked in local clubs with saxophonist Herman Green and numerous other Memphis musicians. Also during this period Reedus performed with New York musicians such as Milt Jackson, Slide Hampton and Frank Foster. During an appearance at Memphis’ Blues Alley, Woody Shaw asked the drummer to audition for him in New York. After a successful tryout, Reedus left college in 1980 to join Shaw’s group, which also featured Steve Turre, Mulgrew Miller and Stafford James. In 1981, he made his recording debut on Shaw’s United, and proceeded to tour the world with the trumpeter’s band. He remained with the group until it disbanded in 1983.

Reedus also worked with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, Art Farmer, Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Garrett, Mulgrew Miller, George Coleman, Benny Golson, Joe Lovano, Phineas Newborn, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Dave Stryker and many others. His albums as a leader included People Get Ready, Minor Thang, Incognito andThe Far Side.