Born: May 13, 1950 Primary Instrument: Keyboard
Ronnie Foster - keyboards, Hammond organ
Ronnie Foster began playing piano at the age of 4. By age 12 he had switched to Hammond organ and became a student of the jazz great Jimmy Smith. At age 15, Ronnie started playing with George Benson on weekends, while still in school. After graduating from high school Ronnie began a two-year stint with The Billy Wooten Trio. Eventually, Ronnie began playing New York clubs. At 20 he got a call from New York that Saxophonist great Stanley Turrentine was looking for a new organist. He did one gig with Stanley. Word of Ronnie was traveling fast.
While he waited for the call about the next Turrentine gig, guitar legend Grant Green heard that Ronnie was in New York. Green hired Ronnie to go on the road. This event would prove to be a turning point for Ronnie as it offered him his first recording session experience; “Grant Green Alive.” This important session led Ronnie to a recording contract of his own with Blue Note Records.
As a recording artist Ronnie's solo discography consists of 5 albums for Blue Note, 2 albums for Columbia Records and 1 album for Projazz. Ronnie Foster recorded his first album for Blue Note “The Two Headed Freap,” in January of 1972. Ronnie's follow-up album, “Sweet Revival” was recorded in December of that same year. He cut “Live at Montreux,” in July of 1973, which was followed in 1974 by “On the Avenue,” and in 1975 by “Cheshire Cat,” his final album for Blue Note.
He then moved to Columbia, where he released “Love Satellite” in 1978 and “Delight” in 1979. Ronnie’s solo style favored funky vamps instead of risky improvisation. Jazz purists dismissed Ronnie during the peak of his early career; the first half of the '70s. However, as such a talented mainstream funk and soul-jazz keyboardist Ronnie was able to cultivate a very successful career as both a sideman (working frequently with George Benson, in particular) and producer.
Beginning in the late '70s, and throughout the '80s and '90s, Ronnie’s career and influence has spanned many varied artists and recordings as he began concentrating on session work. Some of those artists include: George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Earl Klugh, Jimmy Ponder, Stanley Clarke, Lalo Schifrin, Harvey Mason, Jimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine, David Sanborn, Lee Ritenour, The Temptations and Grover Washington, Jr.
Of late, Ronnie’s own records have been rediscovered by a new generation of both 90’s listeners and recording artists alike. Many of his records are currently used as source material for sample-heavy acid-jazz and hip-hop records. In 1998/9 Ronnie enjoyed chart success as the producer of Roger Smiths #1 Smooth Jazz album “Both Sides,” and the Will Downing/Gerald Albright release “Pleasures Of The Night.”
Ronnie has recently composed music for the hit show Storm at Mandalay Bay Las Vegas Ronnie is also enjoying more success with artist Will Downing on his latest CD “Sensual Journey” which has been at #3 for sometime now on Billboards Contemporary Jazz Chart Ronnie is now in Las Vegas where he is currently musical director for the new hit show AIR PLAY at the TROPICANA and has been recruited by Vegas superstar Clint Holmes, Ronnie wrote the opening theme for Clint's new show at Harrah's, and has been with Clint almost 4 years now. Also Ronnie has been having some local Las Vegas success with his own show starting last year at Sedona Restaurant co-owned by Andre Aggasi and now has moved to the new hot spot in Vegas The Artisan Hotel where he has SRO crowds every week. Ronnie was nominated in 4 catagories for the first annual Las Vegas BMA awards and won best Jazz Instrumentalist Overall 2006.