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Larry Ridley: Them's That Teach Can Do

By Published: November 29, 2007
Virgil and Freddie Hubbard and Jimmy Spaulding and Mel Rhyne and all of us, we all came up together in Indianapolis under the Montgomery Brothers and all the great guys—JJ Johnson and all of them that came out of Indianapolis. But Virgil was always not as aggressive—and this is not saying anything negative about Freddie—but Freddie was always so much more out there, you know pushing and moving straight ahead, and Virgil was always more laid back. But Virgil, to his credit, always kept a steady gig, He worked in the Dick Cavett band on TV and he did all those great Broadway shows, so he kept himself in the running as a performing musician, even though it wasn't always just being on the road. He did stuff with Charles Earland and ...

Larry AAJ: He was in John Stubblefield's last band and that was quite a group; that's a lot of fire power in the front line, John Stubblefield and Virgil Jones.

LR: Oh yeah, that's right. Stubbs was another great player that I had at Rutgers, too. I felt so bad when he passed and Ted Dunbar, too. Two great human beings, great musicians and just very professional guys and I miss those guys.

AAJ: Well the band you have now is inter-generational. You have a twenty year-old, a thirty year-old and a forty year-old somewhere in there, but you've got a lot of decades being covered there in the group.

LR: Yeah, there's another young lady that works with the band, too. At this point I haven't had her slated for this particular concert, but she's a vocalist and she was also a student of mine at Rutgers and her name is Jackie Jones. She works a lot over in New Jersey, she lives in Jersey and she works a lot over there too in some of the places like that place that a lot of the people play over in Newark where they have those jazz concerts. She may still end up doing something on this concert, but at this point we're focusing primarily on the instrumental.

AAJ: Can you give us a little sneak preview of what the program will be?

LR: Well we're going to be [doing] Duke Pearson's music and Sonny Clark's and Kenny Drew's, focusing on their compositions and maybe even some songs that are not their personal compositions, but they're very much tied into. You know Duke wrote things like "Jeanine and "Cristo Redentor, and he did a lot of stuff with Donald Byrd. Kenny Drew—he's on a lot of important dates, and Sonny Clark, he wrote some really, really nice music, some we're going to be focusing on their compositions primarily.

AAJ: Who will be doing the arrangements?

LR: Well it's a combination of myself and the guys in the band, Doug and myself primarily.

AAJ: It's an interesting frontline with violin and saxophone, especially since Doug is so versatile.

LR: And the thing is that I had always, being a violinist myself early on, I always had a thing for the violin and when I got a chance to play with people like Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli, Joe Kennedy, Jr. and Ray Nance, oh man! When I was coming up as a violin player early on, I was never introduced to Eddie South and a lot of those guys. My whole introduction to playing the bass came when I went to a Jazz At The Philharmonic concert and I heard Ray Brown with Herb Ellis and Oscar Peterson's trio, and Ella Fitzgerald was singing with them, and man they were just stomping down so hard I said, "Now I know what instrument I want to play as far as jazz is concerned.


Because I was hearing it in my household. My mother's youngest brother was a bebop fan, and then Freddie Hubbard's brother and I—that's when I became aware of Oscar Pettiford and Charlie Mingus and Curly Russell and on and on, and George Morrow with Max Roach. That's another loss because Max was just, oh man, he was just something else. The experience that I had with him was just tremendous. And it's that kind of stuff when people talk about, "Well I have my graduate degree in jazz studies. I say, yeah, but I feel like I have a double doctorate because I had the chance to play with the Max Roach's, the Philly Joe's and the Roy Haynes' and on and on an on. And Thelonious Monk. You can't even explain to people what that's like and what you learned from them.

AAJ: Well the good thing is that you've been able to impart some of that experience to your students, so at least they've been touched by it peripherally.

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