During the 1900s, Indianapolis was an important hub for American jazz, and many of the nation’s biggest names among jazz musicians came out of the Circle City. Particularly along the now-historic Indianapolis cultural district called Indiana Avenue, an abundance of clubs provided hip scenes for Indianapolis nightlife and live Indianapolis music of the period. Some of the finest jazz musicians in the country, such as bassist Larry Ridley, worked in these clubs for pivotal parts of their careers.
Ridley was born in Indianapolis in 1937 and played in its hallowed music venues during the height of the jazz epoch, opposite other greats such as Freddie Hubbard, another Hoosier native son. While still a teenager, Ridley began his professional career as a jazz bassist, making his own unique contribution to the ever-changing genre.
A serious student of his craft, Larry Ridley continued his studies even while he was working as a successful jazz musician and recording artist, at the Indiana University School of Music in nearby Bloomington, a nearby satellite city of Indianapolis in Central Indiana. Ridley later became a student at the Lenox School of Jazz.
|Larry Ridley and the Jazz Legacy Ensemble perform at Up Over Jazz Cafe in this classic jazz video.|
Ridley cites as his major motivator, teacher and inspiration Dr. David Baker, another famous person from Indianapolis. Ridley played in a big band led by Dr. Baker while pursuing his muse at Indiana University.
A large part of his life has been given over to passing on the art of jazz in various educational positions, including a 30-year stint as Professor of Music at Rutgers. Throughout his remarkable career, Larry Ridley amassed many awards, and his name appears in the annals of Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Education Hall of Fame, as well as the International Association of Jazz Educators’ Hall of Fame.
Ridley has lent his musical expertise to dozens of classic jazz albums, including Blue Spirits, with Freddie Hubbard, another jazz great and Indy native of the same era. Ridley’s sole album as a leader, Sum of the Parts, was made in 1975. He is not only a musician and educator, but an accomplished composer.
|Hear a beautiful cut from Larry Ridley’s album, Sum of the Parts, in this video recording.|
Today, Larry Ridley still actively pursues his chosen path, teaching jazz bass in the esteemed Manhattan School of Music. He holds the titles of Director for the African American Jazz Caucus, Inc., Regional Coordinator for the International Association for Jazz Education and Jazz Artist in Residence for New York’s Harlem-based Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. His name will remain prominent on the list of famous people from Indianapolis and among famous Indianapolis musicians.
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