It took me a minute to post this...
When I was a young, my older sister had a friend who spent a lot of time at our house. Part of the reason (aside from the fact that they were like sisters themselves), was that her father was a touring musician who spent a lot of time on the road. As a kid, that was all I knew.
Her father was Ronnie Mathews. He was a jazz pianist who played with Max Roach from 1963-1968, and with Art Blakey as one of the original jazz messengers. In his twenties, he toured internationally and recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones, and later played with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, TS Monk & Roy Hargove.
I got to know Ronnie as I got older, though not as well as I would have liked. I do want to thank him though, for always taking the time to talk to me about what he was doing, and for taking a genuine interest in what I was up to creatively.
When I heard he was sick, my first thoughts went to his daughter and her family. I have been somewhat lucky in that I haven't had extensive personal experience with the passing of those closest to me. So to Ronnie's family, my heart goes out.
I then started to think about his legacy as a musician. He has been proclaimed by music writers and fellow musicians as on of the most underrated artists of his generation. About a week before his passing, I attended a benefit concert for him at Sweet Rhythm. It was an overwhelming turnout. So many great musicians and friends came through, it was quite astounding. Ronnie passed away roughly a week later.
So it goes.
Rest in peace Ronnie, you are missed.
Ronnie with Art Blakey, Elvin Jones & Sunny Murray
"Monk's Dream", with Johnny Griffin, live at the Village Vanguard, 1981
Ronnie Mathews (as I knew him) at the Thelonious Monk Tribute Concert