Ronnie Mathews

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Ronnie Mathews
Birth name Ronald Mathews
Born (1935-12-02)December 2, 1935
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died June 28, 2008(2008-06-28) (aged 72)
New York City, New York
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, educator
Instruments Piano

Ronald Mathews (December 2, 1935 in New York City – June 28, 2008 in Brooklyn) was an American jazz pianist who worked with Max Roach from 1963 to 1968 and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He acted as lead in recording from 1963 and 1978–79. His most recent work was in 2008, as both a mentor and musician with "Generations", a group of 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.

Critics have compared him to fellow pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, with a sprinkle of McCoy Tyner.[1]


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 1960s. 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).[2]

One of the highlights of his career, and one of his longest associations, was with the Johnny Griffin Quartet. For almost five years (1978-1982) he was an integral part of this band and forged lasting relationships with Griffin, Kenny Washington (drums) and Ray Drummond (bass). The New York Times described Mathews as "a constant and provocative challenge to Mr. Griffin. [...He] is the energizer of the group".[3] One of the few Johnny Griffin recordings that features Mathews' original compositions is "To the Ladies" (Galaxy).

In the 1980s, 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 the Netherlands, and more). He also toured with Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Band. Mathews was also involved in cross-media projects: he was pianist for the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Black and Blue in 1989, and, in 1990, he was one of the artists who recorded for Spike Lee's movie, Mo' Better Blues.[4]

After a stint touring and recording with the Clifford Jordan Big Band in the early 1990s, Mathews joined T.S. Monk for eight years of touring and recording. The Chicago Tribune stated that "The soul of the band [...] is pianist Ronnie Mathews, whose angular romanticism provides the horn players with a lush and spicy foundation for their improvising".[5] Three CDs were recorded with the T.S. Monk, Jr. Band, including Charm.

Mathews died of pancreatic cancer on June 28, 2008 in Brooklyn.

In 1998 Hal Leonard Books published his collection of student arrangements: "Easy Piano of Thelonious Monk".[6]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Bill Hardman

With Joe Henderson

With Roy Haynes

With Freddie Hubbard

With Lee Morgan

With Max Roach

With Woody Shaw

With Sonny Stitt


  1. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Wilson, John S. (June 25, 1981) "Johnny Griffin on Saxophone" New York Times.
  4. ^ Keepnews, Peter (July 2, 2008). "Ronnie Mathews, 72, Pianist Who Accompanied Jazz Stars, Dies". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Duckman, David (November 08, 1995) "T.s. Monk Jr. And Top Players Impress With Polish, Passion" Chicago Tribune.
  6. ^ Mathews, Ronnie (1998) "Thelonious Monk - Easy Piano Solos" Hal Leonard Books.

External links[edit]