The Connection -OST (1959-61)

The Connection - Living Theatre

The Connection is a 1959 play by Jack Gelber.

It was first produced by The Living Theatre: directed by the theatre’s co-founder Judith Malina; and designed by co-founder Julian Beck.

The play has a play-within-a-play format, with characters Jim Dunn as the “producer” and Jaybird as the “writer.”

They are attempting to stage a production about the underbelly of society using “real” addicts.

Some of the addicts are jazz musicians.

They all (except for the “producer,” “writer,” and two “photographers”) have one thing in common: they are waiting around for their drug dealer, their “connection.”

The dialogue of the characters is interspersed with performances of jazz.

The Connection premiered at The Living Theatre (on 6th Ave at 14 St), New York; July 15, 1959

N.B.: Man in audience….. Martin Sheen (uncredited in the program)


The original music for the premiere was led by pianist Freddie Redd.

Gelber had originally thought that the play would feature real musicians — who would also double as actors in minor roles — improvising on blues and jazz standards in the tradition of Charlie Parker, but Redd convinced him to use an original score.

The two weaved Redd’s original compositions into the score, making it an integral part of the play.

Using the direction “in the tradition of Charlie Parker” as a starting point, the pianist wrote seven pieces of straight-ahead bop, wide open for improvisations, and then assembled a sterling quartet featuring himself, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, bassist Michael Mattos, and drummer Larry Ritchie.

The end result was a set of dynamic straight-ahead bop.

While both Redd and McLean show signs of their influences — the pianist blends Monk and Powell, while the saxophonist has built off of Bird’s twisting lines — they have developed their own voices, which gives the driving, bluesy bop on Music From the Connection an edge.

McLean’s full, robust tone often dominates, but he never overshadows Redd’s complex, intricate playing, and both musicians, as well as Mattos and Ritchie, effortlessly keep up with the changes from hard-hitting, up-tempo bop numbers to lyrical, reflective ballads.

The soundtrack was recorded for the Blue Note label in February 1960.

Freddie Redd Quartet – the music from The Connection [Blue Note BSTN 84027]

the music from The Connection [Blue Note BSTN 84027]

Side A
1 – Who Killed Cock Robin?
2 – Wigglin’
3 – Music Forever

Side B
1 – Time To Smile
2 – Theme For Sister-Salvation
3 – Jim Dunn’s Dilemma
4 – O.D.


Jackie McLean – alto sax
Freddie Redd – piano
Michael Mattos – bass
Larry Ritchie – drums

Recorded: Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; February 15, 1960
Released: 1960
Label: Blue Note [BSTN 84027]

Produced in collaboration with: W. Zev Putterman
Recording Engineer: Rudy van Gelder

Liner Notes: Ira Gitler

Photography: Herb Snitzer
Design: Reid Miles


The film version had to overcome several drawbacks.

Although censured by the American authorities for its “vulgarity” and “indecency”, the pressure exerted by the French Association of Film Critics and successfully overcame finally opened in 1962.

While Freddie Redd Quartet version was also the soundtrack of the film, there was a second version registered on June 13, 1960 for the Felsted label by trumpeter Howard McGhee completed leading a quintet that Tina Brooks on tenor sax, Freddie Redd the piano (identified with I. Ching for contractual reasons), Milt Hinton on bass and Osie Johnson on drums.

Howard McGhee Quintet – Connection [Felsted FL 7512]

Connection [Felsted Fl-7512]

Side A
1 – Who Killed Cock Robin?
2 – Wigglin’
3 – Music Forever

Side B
1 – Time To Smile
2 – Theme For Sister Salvation.flac
3 – Jim Dunn’s Dilemma
4 – OD (Overdose)


Howard McGhee – trumpet
Tina Brooks – tenor sax
I. Ching (Freddie Redd pseudonym) – piano
Milt Hinton, bass
Osie Johnson, drums

Recorded: 1960
Released: 1960
Label: Felsted [FL 7512]

Producer: Alan Lorber, Ernest Kelley
Recording Engineer:

Liner Notes: Alan M. Lorber
Cover design: Stephen Lorber


When the work toured Europe in the summer of 1961, there was a re-write of its soundtrack, this time composed by Cecil Payne on baritone sax and pianist Kenny Drew.

Back in New York, these new scores were committed to disc by Payne with Clark Terry on trumpet, Bennie Green on trombone, Duke Jordan on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Charlie Persip on drums.

The recording sessions took place between 14 and 16 March 1962 for Charlie Parker Records label.

Cecil Payne – The Connection [Charlie Parker Records PLP 806]

The Connection [Parker PLP 806]

Side A
1 – Stop And Listen
2 – Born Again
3 – Dear People

Side B
1 – Kenny’s One
2 – Sister Carol
3 – Mighty Fine Wine
4 – It’s Your Life


Clark Terry – trumpet
Bennie Green – trombone
Cecil Payne – baritone sax, conductor
Duke Jordan – piano
Ron Carter – bass
Charlie Persip – drums

Recorded: RCA Victor Studios, New York City; March 14-16, 1962
Released: 1962
Label: Charlie Parker Records [PLP 806]

Producer: Aubrey Mayhew
Recording Engineer: Bob Simpson
Liner Notes: Doris Parker, Douglas McClelland

New Original Score from the Off-Broadway Hip Success

Composed by Cecil Payne and Kenny Drew
Conducted by Cecil Payne


The accolades achieved by the theme of the work and incorporating live music led to the show launching a production on the West Coast.

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon was in charge of the music for the Los Angeles production.

Dexter not only composed the repertoire but also debuted as an actor cast part characterising Ernie, one of the characters whose profile came in handy since he was a talented jazz musician and attractive, soft-spoken and heels addicted to heroin.

Quote (from the liner notes): “Soul Sister,” the original that launches the first side is one of the themes Dexter wrote for the score of the Hollywood version of The Connection in which he had an acting, playing, and writing role; it is the equivalent of Freddie Redd’s “(Theme for) Sister Salvation”… “I Want More”, the significantly titled Gordon theme that closes the first side, is the West Coast equivalent of “O.D. (Overdose)”…

“Ernie’s Theme”, is the last of the three themes on this LP from Dexter’s Connection score.

It parallels “Music Forever”.

Dexter was accompanied by: Kenny Drew (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); and ‘Philly’ Joe Jones (drums).

Dexter Gordon – Dexter Calling… [Blue Note BST 84083]

Dexter Calling [Blue Note BST 84083]

Side A
1 – Soul Sister
2 – Modal Mood
3 – I Want More

Side B
1 – The End of a Love Affair
2 – Clear The Dex
3 – Ernie’s Tune
4 – Smile


Dexter Gordon – tenor sax;
Kenny Drew – piano;
Paul Chambers – bass;
‘Philly’ Joe Jones – drums.

Recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; May 9, 1961.
Released: 1961
Label: Blue Note [BST 84083]

Producer: Alfred Lion
Recording Engineer: Rudy van Gelder

Liner notes: Leonard Feather

Photography: Francis Wolff
Cover design: Reid Miles


Other Productions:

London, 1960
European Tour 1962: Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands
New York, 1981 w/Morgan Freeman as Cowboy
Chicago, 1992 the inaugural production of A Red Orchid Theatre, featuring Michael Shannon and Guy Van Swearingen
New York, 2009 50th Anniversary Production at the Living Theatre, directed by Judith Malina, music director Rene McLean
Seattle, 2011 Sight by Sound productions directed by Gavin Reub in The Little Theater