About Dr. Laurence Howard Ridley II

2014 Donald Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award Recipient Dr. Larry Ridley

About Dr. Larry Ridley

Dr. Laurence Howard Ridley II


“We stand on the shoulders of great people, and we would be negligent not to honor and continue the legacy of their monumental contributions.” 

Dr. Larry Ridley

An accomplished musical force with decades of experience as a sought-after accompanist, a thoughtful soloist, and bandleader, Larry Ridley has appeared on a countless number of sessions as a sideman. He studied at Indiana University and the Lenox School of Jazz. After working in his hometown with Freddie Hubbard, James Spaulding and Wes Montgomery, Ridley relocated to New York, where he has been active ever since. Among his more significant musical associations in the 1960’s were with Slide Hampton, Max Roach, Red Garland, Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, and Thelonious Monk’s regular bassist through the mid 70’s. He worked with Philly Joe Jones’ Dameronia (1981-1985) and has been active up until the present time. Ridley only recorded sparingly as a leader, but he has been a valuable sideman on many dates.  

Dr. Larry Ridley has also been one of the staunchest advocates for jazz education and the appreciation of the music’s roots in African-American culture. From 1971 to 1999, Ridley headed the jazz program and music department at Rutgers University. The philosophy of the new College was based primarily with answering the Civil Rights Movement, the Student Demands for Ethnic Curricula Inclusion, and to quell the civil unrest and riots in many cities in the United States. The quality of activist intellectual colleagues included individuals such as Maria Canino, Lloyd McNeil, Dan Newman, Daniel Goode, Nathan Heard, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Cade Bambara, Philip Corner, Frank Jennifer, Bernie Charles, Mel Gary, Sonia Sanchez, and many others.

Dr. Ridley has served as chairman of the Jazz Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and was the organization’s National Coordinator of the Jazz Artist in Schools program for five years (1978-1982). He served as a consultant to Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) in the drafting of House Concurrent Resolution 57 declaring “Jazz as a rare and valuable National Treasure through the African American Experience”. His many honors include the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation’s Living Legacy Jazz Award”, introduction into the International Association for Jazz Education Hall of Fame (IAJE) and the Downbeat Magazine Jazz Education Hall of Fame. The Bennie Golson Jazz Award from Howard University and a Juneteenth 2006 Proclamation Award from the New York City Council. In 2013, Dr. Ridley was honored in his hometown with inducted into the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Hall of fame.

Dr. Ridley, an active performer, has served since 1993 as Jazz Artist in Residence at the Harlem based New York Public Library/Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He established an annual series there dedicated to presenting the compositions of the jazz masters that are performed by Dr. Ridley and his Jazz Legacy Ensemble. He is a contributing Editor to JazzEd Magazine, & Lecturer – Jazz at Lincoln Center beginning in 2011.


Ridley and the late Anderson White founded the Black Jazz Music Caucus (BMJC) in 1977, an autonomous affiliate working with the National Association of Jazz Educators. In the year 2000 he became the Executive Director of the BJMC’s renamed African American Jazz Caucus, Inc. (AAJC), a 501c3.   The AAJC proactively works to maintain the aesthetic integrity, heritage, legacy and historical facts germane to the music emphasizing “The Roots that have produced the Fruits.” Under the leadership of Ridley & President Bill Myers the AAJC looks forward to continuing to recognize those “Roots”. 

“I have known Larry Ridley since he was teenager playing in and around Indianapolis, Ind.  I have always admired Larry for his interest in Music Education, his ambition, his musicianship and his willingness to continue his growth where ever he established his home.” Dr. Willis Kirk


In this Own Words

The early “educators” who continue to be significant influences on me as a musician and as a human being begins with my father, mother, siblings, paternal/maternal families, religious and extended families at large, my daughter, my grandchildren, my nephews, my wife Magdalena, et al.
I have had many great teachers. My third grade teacher at George Washington Carver P.S. 87 in Indianapolis taught and instilled a sense of pride in me as an African American/Cherokee Indian with a tad of European. Her name was Mrs. Pauline Morton-Finney. She was a brilliant woman who served along with Ms. Mary McLeod Bethune, as an advisor to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt during her husband’s Presidency. Mrs. Morton-Finney introduced us to W.E.B. DuBois, Carter G. Woodson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Booker T. Washington, Phyllis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Chief Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass, etc.
My “big brothers,” David Baker and Jim Harrison, have always been, and continue to be, major role models and mentors.
I realized that I wanted to be a musician and music educator based on my earliest educational experiences in the 1950s observing the lack of African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian Studies curricula inclusion throughout the European American Educational System. I felt the need to dedicate my life and career as an African American jazz performer and African American jazz educator. My point is teaching, “Inclusion to recognize the Roots that have produced the Fruits.” The roots of the Jazz Tree begin in Mother Africa and the fruits are the various global jazz hybrids that have evolved from those roots. This in no way makes it exclusive or exclusionary. It points to teaching the roots that many beautiful fruits have evolved from. But remember that Maestro Duke Ellington stated, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that Swing.” JazzEd Magazine


Larry Ridley: The Apprentice System in Jazz from The Hang

Larry Ridley: The Apprentice System in Jazz from The Hang

 Interview with JazzGuy

Dr. Larry Ridley and the Jazz Legacy Ensemble

Don't miss Dr. Ridley and the Jazz Legacy Ensemble in concert featuring special guests, "Lady Tambourine" of New Orleans and talented young jazz artists representing Jazz Studies Programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Larry Ridley Interview

Jazz Bassist Jonah Jonathan interviews Jazz Bass Legend Dr. Larry Ridley: Beginning in the 1950s Larry has traveled nationally and internationally performing and recording with many of the great jazz artist/innovators. 

Mr Larry Ridley on how to be.

This short selection is taken from extensive interviews that are being produced and archived for the Artists of Jazz project.  Artists of Jazz, directed by Robert Wagner and produced by Joan Babchak, was undertaken to preserve the reminiscences of those whose careers played an integral part in the greatest era in jazz history.

Larry Ridley "Changa Chikuyo"

Recording information: Personnel: 1.Larry Ridley - bass & electric bass 2.Sonny Fortune - alto & soprano sax, flute 3.Onaje Allan Gumbs - piano & electric piano, clavinet, string synthesizer 4.Cornell Dupree - guitar 5.Grady Tate - drums 6.Errol "Crusher" Bennett - congas, percussion.

Larry Ridley "Sum of The Parts" 1975

1.Larry Ridley - bass & electric bass 2.Sonny Fortune - alto & soprano sax, flute 3.Onaje Allan Gumbs - piano & electric piano, clavinet, string synthesizer 4.Cornell Dupree - guitar 5.Grady Tate - drums 6.Errol "Crusher" Bennett - congas, percussion. 

Larry Ridley Interview by Monk Rowe - 1/10/2003 - Toronto, C

Bassist Larry Ridley reminisces about his career as a jazz performer, educator, and advocate.

Ep070 - Larry Ridley - Blue Note Recording Artist

Ep070 - Larry Ridley - Blue Note Recording Artist - Longform Interview The Vinyl Guide

Dr. Larry Ridley, Guest Speaker, September 12, 2017

Dr. Larry Ridley, Guest Speaker, September 12, 2017 at Capital Ale House

Dr. Larry Ridley speaks about his tenure as bassist with Thelonious Monk and his experiences with artists in Richmond Jazz Society's VIRGINIA JAZZ: The Early Years Exhibition now showing at The Valentine through April 2018