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Interviews

Larry Ridley: Them's That Teach Can Do

By Published: November 29, 2007
LR: Well, I started the Jazz Legacy Ensemble back in 1985. In fact I incorporated all of that and got my copyright and patent and all that stuff from the Department of Patents and Trademarks. Richard Wyands is just a Godsend; I mean I love this man. He's a fantastic pianist, he has such a professional demeanor, we never have any hassles about anything. You know, I know that jazz musicians can be very temperamental and I've been around a lot of them [laughs], but when you're trying to have an ensemble it's important to have people that you feel simpatico for and with and he is just fantastic. He is so adaptable to so many different circumstances, that's why a lot singers enjoy having him accompany them because he's like a composer at the piano. He and Cedar Walton are two guys that I've worked with that are alike, that they're like Beethoven, Bach and Chopin wrapped in one. He's just great to work with and I always use him on all the gigs and workshops and everything that we do.

Doug Harris is now my current tenor sax, soprano sax and flautist. He's been with me now for I guess about a year or so now. Doug is a wonderful instrumentalist and he's also an educator, too. He's worked in the public school system here in New York. For a number of years he was a district arts coordinator out in Brooklyn, working under Dr. Lester Young, Lester Young's son, who recently retired. But he worked under him and Doug brings another kind of energy to the group in terms of his performance. He's one of the Texas tenors. He's out of Houston, Texas and came up under Conrad Johnson, another one of the unsung heroes, one of the older guys who trained a lot of those guys who came out of Texas and he's got to be in his late eighties, early nineties now, too. So when we do workshops and clinics and things like that, Doug is just outstanding in addition to his musicianship.

I have a young lady on violin ...

AAJ: You're first instrument.

Larry LR: Yeah, you're right. I started out when I was five years old, man, playing the violin. She's from Indianapolis and she's a wonderful young lady. Her name is Krystle Ford, and she comes from a jazz family in Indianapolis, too. She just graduated about a year ago from Butler University and she had also studied in Europe and she's just a fantastic young lady. I've taken her under my wing and I'm like her big brother and uncle and any other kind of parental figure that I can be for her because she's a fantastic talent and she's just of the verge—she's only about 21-22 years old, but she's a tremendous talent. And I have Greg Buford on drums.

AAJ: I know Greg from way back when I was at WRTI in Philadelphia.

LR: Yeah, Greg is great, man. He was one of my students at Rutgers and I first met him through Philly Joe. He was studying with Philly Joe Jones and he came to Rutgers and he's just an outstanding gentleman. He's doing very well as a performer and he does all kinds of things. He was involved in some of the early hip hop stuff, too, so he's got a very broad expertise musically, and he also has a studio, recording studio. In fact, my last recording we did in Greg's studio in New Jersey. And he's been with me now for about a year. A lot of great guys have performed with me in the past, like Charles Davis and T K Blue and Virgil Jones, who unfortunately would still be working with me, but he's not doing very well—he's in a nursing home now. I feel so bad for him because we go back to when we were kids.

AAJ: He's another one of unsung players in this music; probably one of the greatest trumpeters who never really got his due. He certainly made a living, he performed in so many ensembles, but unfortunately the powers that be never decided to give him a record date of his own.

LR: Well that's why I'm glad that the last CD I did turned out. Charles Davis was supposed to have been on the date. It was going to be a quintet date with my Jazz Legacy Ensemble at the time, but he went to Europe with the Sun Ra Arkestra, so I had the studio time booked, so I said, Hey, Virgil has never been given his due, so I'll just feature Virgil. We did it with Richard Wyands on piano, Jimmy Wormworth on drums and myself as a rhythm section and we just did it as a quartet date and Virgil just plays beautifully on it. It's available on my record label, Naima Records.



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