Born: September 15, 1913 | Died: January 13, 1994 Primary Instrument: Keyboard
Rogelio Ramirez (also known as Roger or Ram) was born in San Juan on September 15, 1913. He arrived on Ellis Island in 1920.He was raised in New York, was recognized as a prodigious talent and by 13 was a professional musician, and a member of the American Federation of Musicians.
Ramirez worked with the Louisiana Stompers, The Spirits of Rhythm, and Monette Moore in 1933. The following year, he joined trumpeter Rex Stewart for a set of recordings that are available today on the Columbia and Classic labels. In 1935, he joined Willie Bryant and in 1937, he went to Europe with a group led by Bobby Martin.
A highlight in Ram Ramirez's career carne at the age of 21, in 1934 when he literally substituted for Duke Ellington in a small group led by Rex Stewart, with whom he recorded “Stingaree,” and “Baby Ain'tcha Satisfied.”
Ramirez backed the legendary Ella Fitzgerald in 1940, in the band she took over after the death of Chick Webb, and worked with Frankie Newton and Charlie Barnet in 1942. In 1944, he joined the John Kirby Sextet and this was followed by stints with his own trio.
He proceeded to play in bands led by Frankie Newton and Ike Quebec, appearing with the latter on some early Blue Note Records, Ramirez also recorded under his own name in 1946, leading a trio with guitarist Jimmy Shirley and bassist Al Hall.
In 1944 Billie Holiday recorded Ramirez's composition, “Lover Man,” a song which is still strongly associated with her, and subsequently became a jazz standard. This has been his biggest claim to fame, and his enduring contribution to jazz.
In the late '40s and early '50s he continued to play in and around New York, and in ‘53 began to play organ on more occasions, where he started to make a name for himself in the clubs.
In the '60s he toured Europe with bluesman T-Bone Walker, and the following decade was with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. He continued to make appearances with this group into the early '80s.
A blues-orientated pianist and organist that could swing with the best of them Ramirez is perhaps less well known than his skills warrant. He participated in approximately 62 jazz recording sessions between 1934 and 1981.His best solo effort was “Live in Harlem,” from 1960, where he puts on a dazzling display of his skills on the organ. There was a reissue release in 2005 of “I’ll Remember April,” by the Ram Ramirez Trio.
Ram Ramirez died on Jan. 13, 1994.
Source: James Nadal