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Larry Ridley: Them's That Teach Can Do

By Published: November 29, 2007
AAJ: Hip-hop would probably be on a higher level if there was more interaction. If the hip-hop artists understood jazz more it would probably elevate the genre.

LR: That's the interesting thing about it. I moderated a panel at the hip-hop summit that was given at North Carolina Central University back in February, with Chris Martin, who is from Kid 'n Play and Ninth Wonder, and Mike E and a lot of these guys that are big names out there in the hip-hop community. Kwage Clemmens is head of the program at North Carolina Central and we're interacting together because they have a hip-hop curriculum down there and they told me that guys my age, for the most part, the jazz musicians wanted to kind of look down their noses at them. And this is one of the things.

I love Wynton Marsalis, but you know sometimes his opinions sometime get overblown in the media about his feelings about some of the commercial or pop kind of things. And this is not a negative thing at Wynton, because he's done a fantastic job and I love this young brother. I've known him since he was kid; I know his mother and father, [and] when I used to play down in New Orleans I used to go by their home.

But they say a lot of musicians of my generation kind of look down their noses at them and they were just so thankful and, man, the respect that they show me, I'm talking about the fact that I take time to discuss things with them and make them aware of it because I had one young lady who was on the panel and she started talking all this stuff, acting like hip hop is something new. I told her you have to understand—I did this as part of the panel—I said that hip-hop movement is just another link in the African continuum chain and there were people doing ... we had the signifyin' monkey and ...

AAJ: People like Slim Gaillard

LR: You know Slim Gaillard and I mentioned all these names, so I want you to go back and do your homework, I said. I understand where you're coming from, but I'm just trying, and don't get me wrong I'm not trying to jump on your case, but I just want you to expand your research and do your homework so that you really understand that, because some of them get a little adamant about what's going on with their acceptance and I'm saying to them just relax. Come on let's maintain a dialogue. Stop these monologues and start working together, because my mantra is working together works.

align=center>Larry l:r: David Baker, Slide Hampton, Larry Riley

That's the only way it's going to happen, but there's a tremendous amount of talent out there and a lot of them sometimes, I have some students give me horror stories about going to some of the predominantly white institutions and being involved in their jazz programs and the way they are treated at some of these institutions, which I find appalling that people would treat them like that. But then again there a lot of these so-called jazz educators that want to create this disconnect from understanding where the music comes from, so naturally they would be insistent, but they found a niche for themselves, so some of them get holier than thou in terms of I'm doctor so-and-o or I'm professor so-and-so and get their little attitudes, and I tell that somebody is going to issue you a parachute at some point [laughs]. Get it together, you know.

AAJ: Yeah, you can fall out the window in the ivory tower, very easily.

LR: Hello! And what's the need for that anyway because Yo Yo Ma is Chinese, he plays European classical music and he has no reservations to say that that's what he's doing. Leontyne Price is a great operatic singer. On and on and on, we can point out the names of people that have no problem acknowledging the fact that they are doing what they do. Wynton Marsalis is a great trumpeter in the European classical tradition, as well as being a wonderful jazz artist. So come on let's just cut the bullshit and get down to what the real deal is. We're all legitimate musicians and we're all serious musicians so let's cut out all those little ridiculous clichés.

Selected Discography

Larry Ridley and the Jazz Legacy Ensemble, Other Voices (Naima, 1999)

Philly Joe Jones, Look Stop Listen (Uptown, 1983)

James Moody, Feelin' It Together (Muse, 1973)

Dexter Gordon, The Panther! (Prestige-OJC, 1970)

Lee Morgan, Cornbread (Blue Note, 1965)

Jackie McLean, Destination Out! (Blue Note, 1963)

Photo Credit
Courtesy of Larry Ridley

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