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Ronnie Mathews (December 2, 1935 in New York CitymarkerJune 28, 2008 in Brooklynmarker) was a jazz pianist primarily known for his work with other musicians, including Max Roach from 1963 to 1968 and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He acted as lead in recording from 1963 and 1978 - 1979. His most recent work was in 2008, as both a mentor and musician with "Generations," a group of stalwart jazz musicians headed by veteran drummer Jimmy Cobb. He contributed two new compositions to the album that was released by San Francisco State University's International Center for the Arts on September 15, 2008.


According to the New York Daily News, "Ronnie Mathews (is) another stalwart figure who has yet to receive the proper recognition." Critics have showered accolades upon his name and affectionately compare him to fellow pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, with a sprinkle of McCoy Tyner.

In his twenties, Mathews toured internationally and recorded with Roach, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes. He was also a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1950s through the 60's. By thirty, he began teaching jazz piano and led workshops, clinics and master classes at Long Island University in New York City. Besides Dexter Gordon and Clark Terry, he toured and recorded on two Louis Hayes projects in the 70's (i.e. the Louis Hayes-Woody Shaw Quintet and the Louis Hayes-Junior Cook Quintet).

One of the highlights of his career and longest associations, was with the Johnny Griffin Quartet. For almost five years (1978-1982) he was an integral part of Johnny Griffin's Quartet and forged lasting relationships with Johnny, Kenny Washington (drums) and Ray Drummond (bass). The New York Times describes Mathews as "a constant and provocative challenge to Mr. Griffin...(he) is the energizer of the group..." One of the few Johnny Griffin recordings that features Ronnie's original compositions is "To the Ladies" (Galaxy).

In the 80's, Mathews began honing his role as a front man. He performed as a leader in duo, trio and quartet configurations around the world (from New York City to Genova, to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, and more). He also toured with Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Band. One sign of his broad scope of talent and musical amiability, is his position as pianist for the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Black and Blue in 1989. And Broadway was not his only cross-media project; In 1990, Mathews was one of the artists who recorded on Spike Lee's movie, Mo' Better Blues.

After a stint touring and recording with the Clifford Jordan Big Band in the early 90's, Mathews joined T.S. Monk for eight years of touring and recording. Glowing reviews of the T.S. Monk Band never failed to compliment Mathews. The Chicago Tribune considered Mathews "the soul of the band... who's angular romanticism provides the horn players with a lush, spicy foundation..." Three CDs have been recorded with the T.S. Monk, Jr. Band. T.S. Monk's "Charm" is one recording that has Ronnie Mathews' offerings on it.

In 1998 Hal Leonard Books published his collection of student arrangements: "Easy Piano of Thelonious Monk" .

Aside from the string of solo recordings done with various labels over the years: Doin' the Thang (1963/Prestige), So Sorry Please (1985/Nilva), Selena's Dance (1988/Timeless), At Cafe des Copains (1989/Sackville), Dark Before the Dawn (1990/DIW), Lament for Love (1992/DIW), Shades of Monk (1995/Sound Hills), etc., Mathews' playing and compositions can be enjoyed on countless recordings by other musicians; Roy Hargrove's Family (1995), Abbey Lincoln's People In Me, and Antoine Roney's Whirling, to name a few.



  1. ISBN 079358759X

External links

  • All Music

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