Dr. Harrison Ridley, Jr.

Thank you for so many years of great jazz history...



From the website All About Jazz...


Dr. Harrison Ridley, Jr. passed on February 19th 2009

Dr. Harrison Ridley Jr. is one Philadelphia's best known jazz specialists, although he himself does not use the term "jazz," opting instead for a phrases such as "this music referred to as jazz," or simply, "the positive music." In this respect he shares a similarity with many other jazz artists and historians (Duke Ellington being the most prominent example) to resist using "jazz" as a descriptive label.

A professor of music history at Temple University and Villanova University, he is the host of a Sunday night radio show on WRTI (90.1FM) entitled, "The Historical Approach to the Positive Music." The "historical approach" Ridley takes is to focus in particular on one artist, and he'll use his entire four-hour (8pm-12am) program to give the listener a sense of that artist's contribution to the tradition. Often he'll focus on a specific period in an artist's career, such as early (1920s-1940s) Duke Ellington or Miles Davis recordings from the 1960s. The show has been running for more than thirty years and is quite popular in the Philadelphia area. Ridley will often reference the fact that his phone lines in the studio are full of calls--local jazz celebrities have been known to call in during a show as well.

Ridley is also a record collector and archivist. In the course of fifty years of collecting, he has has amassed over 8,500 LPs, 3,000 78s, 200 45s, 300 CDs, and 6,000 books on African American history and music. He specializes in Duke Ellington albums (of which he has more than 600), and is also an expert on Benny Carter (he has 200 Benny Carter albums).[1]

Ridley has received more than 80 awards, including recognition from the Philadelphia City Hall and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and an honorary Doctorate in Music from Villanova University (conferred in May, 2008). Dr. Ridley also works as a consultant for the Library of Congress. Dubbed a "walking encyclopedia of jazz," Dr. Ridley is in great demand on radio and television shows. He is also an archivist for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, an important institution in the Philly jazz scene.
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