Ronnie Mathews 1935 - 2008
June 30, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
Last month, we learned that pianist and composer Ronnie Mathews was terminally ill. Though you always know and understand that the inevitable is upon us, it never makes it any easier to swallow, once it comes to pass. Ronnie Mathews passed away this past Saturday, succumbing to pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old. An outstanding and solid pianist, Mathews played with jazz legends like Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Max Roach and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to name a few. He also had long associations with saxophonist Johnny Griffin, drummer T. S. Monk and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, whom Mathews recorded with on several occasions, including Hargrove's latest CD, Nothing Serious.
As a leader, Mathews recorded several albums over the course of five decades. These albums include his Doin' the Thang, his first outing for Prestige Records, and his Shades of Monk, which pays homage to one of his greatest inflluences, Thelonious Monk. Mathews also wrote "Easy Piano of Thelonious Monk", through Hal Leonard Books. It is a compilation of Mathews' arrangements of Thelonious Monk tunes, made easy for piano students.
Last week, jazz musicians from all over produced the Ronnie Mathews Benefit at Sweet Rhythm Jazz Club in NYC. Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton, fellow Brooklynite Randy Weston, George Coleman and many more performed to raise money for his family and medical expenses, while celebrating the life of Mathews, who is arguably among the many unsung jazz heros of our time.
I knew Mr. Mathews, and will miss him very much. Let's make sure we honor and support our jazz heros while they are here, and let them know just how much they mean to us.
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