One of the most prestigious pianists of the past 40 years and yet one of those essential contributors to the puzzle of jazz history who has not received due recognition. It seems Ronnie Mathews would be more a household name than it is, for his lofty investment into jazz. His years of touring and his many albums, both as leader and sideman, are overwhelming in number. Critics have showered accolades upon his name and affectionately compare him to fellow pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, with a sprinkle of McCoy Tyner. Not that Ronnie ever imitated them, but rather, that he is in league with these jazz greats.
In his twenties, Ronnie was already an accomplished player who toured internationally and recorded with the likes of Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes. He was also a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1950's through the 60's. 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). Of the three Louis Hayes recordings that features Ronnie, his original compositions can be heard on The Real Thing (Muse).
One of the highlights of his career and longest associations was with the Johnny Griffin Quartet. In Ronnie's own words, This was a very, very special group. For almost five years (1978-1982) he was an integral part of Johnny Griffin's Quartet and forged lasting relationships with Johnny, Kenny Washington (drums) and Ray Drummond (bass). The New York Times describes Ronnie as a constant and provocative challenge to Mr. Griffin...(he) is the energizer of the group... Never getting enough of a good thing, Ronnie boasts of a possible reunion of the quartet sometime soon. One of the few Johnny Griffin recordings that features Ronnie's original compositions is To the Ladies(Galaxy).