Re: Ted Dunbar (October issue, no.42, pg. 11)

AAJ Staff By

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I wish to thank Mr. Donald Elfman regarding his writing the tribute to my close friend and colleague, the late Ted Dunbar.

However, there are errors in his tribute which appears in the October 2005 issue of All About Jazz-New York (pg.11).

Ted related to me that he went to Indianapolis, IN, my hometown, to interview for a job as a pharmacist at Hook's Drug Store in the early 1960's. His decision to take the job and move to Indianapolis was predominately based upon hearing the legendary Wes Montgomery in a local club while there for the interview. He went back to Texas immediately, packed up his wife and daughter and drove back to Indianapolis. Wes became a mentor and on several occasions Ted subbed for Wes when he went on tour.

He also met David Baker in Indianapolis. David became a friend and mentor teaching him NEA Jazz Master, George Russell's "Lydian Chromatic Concept of Improvisation." These studies with David led Ted to synthesize and later publish his own improvisation method, "A System of Tonal Convergence," based primarily on Mr. Russell's concept.

Mr. Elfman writes, "In '72, he [Ted] had joined the faculty of Livingston College becoming the first jazz professor at Rutgers University, where his students included Kevin Eubanks and Rodney Jones."

Kevin and Rodney were not students enrolled at Rutgers. They met Ted through his teaching in the Jazzmobile Workshop Program in New York City.

NEA Jazz Master, Donald Byrd served a short period in the 1960's as an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers. I was the first tenure track appointed Assistant Professor at Livingston College of Rutgers University in 1971 and became Chairman of Music at Livingston College in 1972. It was me that hired Ted as a tenure track Assistant Professor beginning in the Fall of the 1972/1973 academic year. My next tenure track Assistant Professor appointment was Kenny Barron beginning the academic year 1973/1974.

Both of these friends/colleagues were important components working with me in the development of the undergraduate and later Master's Jazz Performance degree programs at Rutgers. I also shepherded both in achieving academic tenure.

Our further high visibility accomplishments were performing, conducting workshops and touring the USA and Southern Africa as the "Rutgers/Livingston Jazz Professors." The other members of the quintet were Adjunct Instructors Frank Foster (NEA Jazz Master), and Freddie Waits.

With the later appointment and subsequent tenure of Professor William Fielder, we were the first group of four (4) African American jazz artists to achieve this distinction at a major university.

We all miss Ted Dunbar, not only for his musical acumen, but his aura and persona as a beautifully talented, benevolent individual, who also had a unique talent for astrology and numerology.


Dr. Larry Ridley
Jazz Artist, Professor of Music, Emeritus-Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Executive Director, the African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC), an affiliate of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE).

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