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Take Five With Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley By

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Meet Matt Ridley:
I graduated from Trinity College of Music in Greenwich, London in 2005 and have been a full time bassist since then. Music has taken me all around the world and I've been very privileged to perform regularly with some of the finest jazz musicians in UK like Jason Yarde, John Turville, and George Hart who were on my debut album, Thymos (Whirlwind, 2013).

I also produced a record with the MJQ Celebration, which plays the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet and features Jim Hart, Dave O'Higgins, Barry Greene, and Steve Brown. We are currently touring the UK and our record is due for release this April.

I'm also busy as a sideman with various bands including gigs with Darius Brubeck (Dave Brubeck's son) and gigs with a world music band led Attab Haddad.

Instrument(s):
Double bass and bass guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?
Most recently I studied with Michael Janisch. I've also had extensive lessons with Andrew Cleyndert, Steve Watts, and classical double bass lessons with Kevin Rundell, Corin Long, and Jani Pensola. I also studied briefly with John Patitucci and Drew Gress when I spent some time in New York in 2008.

As far as influences, I would say all of the famous guys have their own sounds, which have been inspirational, but the guys I've transcribed the most are Ron Carter, Dave Holland, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Larry Grenadier, and Scott LaFaro.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I played along to recordings of the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was 15.

Your sound and approach to music:
I like to make a big, fat, punchy bass sound. My compositional approach is informed by classical music and aims to reconcile the differences between these different philosophies.

Your teaching approach:
I think that technique is an often overlooked aspect of double bass playing; even some busy professional bass players have lousy technique. After the fundamentals have been addressed, I encourage students to become flexible and develop a sound that is unique to them so that they can sound good and confident in any musical situation.

Your dream band:
I would love to play with Keith Jarrett and Kenny Wheeler. If it were possible to bring back John Coltrane and Elvin Jones I would love to play with them too!

Realistically speaking, all I could ask for is to have a group of really talented and amazing individuals who would be up for making an effort to get inside my tunes, push me while pushing themselves, and to be committed to making the band the best it can be. Oh wait, I have that already.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
One of the most bizarre and random things that happened was to be booked as a trio to play at a ceremony of a cult who worshipped the banana—yeah, for real. Waiting to play whilst the leader of the cult recited some liturgy about the banana ("The skin is mighty but the flesh is mightier!") and he and all the folks at the ceremony were standing around with banana skins on their heads. Truth really is stranger than fiction...

Favorite venue:
The Capstone Theatre in Liverpool has an amazing piano and sound crew. The venue staff are also super nice and very generous with their hospitality.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
I'm really proud of my album, Thymos. I'm really chuffed with how it sounds, how I played, how everyone else played! I also love the MJQ Celebration record, which is a totally different vibe, but it's just so fun, I love it. Be hard pressed to choose between them both!

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959).

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I'm being really genuine and true to myself while writing and playing music that has charisma.

Did you know...
I put a video on YouTube of me making an espresso at home (something I take pride in). I was surprised when the video went viral and now has approximately 62,000 views!

CDs you are listening to now:
Wayne Shorter, Without a Net (Blue Note, 2013);
Vijay Iyer, Accelerando (Act, 2012);
Mark Turner, Dharma Days (Warner, 2001);
Nikki Iles, Hush (Babel, 2012);
Aruán Ortiz and Michael Janisch Quintet, Banned in London (Whirlwind Recordings).

Desert Island picks:
Kenny Wheeler, Gnu High (ECM, 1976);
Keith Jarrett, Bye Bye Blackbird (ECM, 1993);
Miles Davis, My Funny Valentine: Miles Davis in Concert (Columbia, 1965);
And pretty much anything from Trane.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It's a great time in some ways as there are so many talented people around, and it makes the standard of musicianship really high. It's exciting to pay with people of this caliber and the scene in London is really happening. Despite all of these goods things, the downside is that there are so many musicians and not enough gigs, which makes the competition for performance really high. It can be difficult for any band to get a lot of exposure—especially if their music is demanding or unusual.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
As long as there is some sort of performance platform for musicians who are passionate about the art and are committed to their musical vision, jazz will continue to be played.

What is in the near future?
Touring with the MJQ Celebration, summer jazz festival gigs with my originals project, and hopefully a recording later in the year.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
"Phrygian Gates" by John Adams.

By Day:
Practice, write, hustle.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Rock musician.

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