While presently known as the founder, heart and soul of one of America’s most famous jazz clubs, Ruth Price (seen here in a photo by JJA member Skip Bolen) was originally a dancer, and started her musical trek as a singer in 1952, touring with Philly Joe Jones’ trio which included Red Garland and Paul Chambers. She joined with Charlie Ventura’s band in 1954, and also performed with Billy Taylor’s Trio. During the 1950s, Charles Mingus considered her his favorite female singer, and she sang with his Quartet. Drummer Shelly Manne felt likewise: she recorded the classic '61 concert disc Ruth Price with Shelly Manne and His Menn at the Manne-Hole before touring with Harry James’ Orchestra in the early '60s.
Retiring from professional singing in the '80s, Ms. Price found herself in possession of a grand piano, and decided to open up the non-profit Jazz Bakery in 1991. Initially featuring artists such as Walter Norris (who opened the club) on a weekend basis, she gradually expanded her bookings to featuring music every night, ranging from Stanley Turrentine, Joe Bushkin, Charles Brown, George Shearing, McCoy Tyner, Diana Krall and Brad Mehldau to Lee Konitz and Cecil Taylor. She has invested her time in not only bringing top name talent, but lesser known musicians such as Tom Harrell and Kurt Rosenwinkel who she feels deserve wider exposure.The theatre atmosphere of the club has created a loyal following of both attentive listeners and dedicated jazz musicians, making the Bakery one of the premier jazz venues.The JJA's West Coast Jazz Awards parties were held at the Jazz Bakery in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and couldn't have found a better home.
In recent years Price has taught jazz vocal techniques at UCLA and the Dick Grove School of Music. She focuses her coaching on helping students with diction and encouraging them to relax and incorporate physically natural movement while onstage. Relaxing and moving naturally seems like a necessary prescription for Ms. Price right now -- the Bakery has lost its lease and is scheduled to close on May 31, 2009. But she vows it will open again, no later than next fall, in a new location (which will be its third). The JJA eagerly awaits the next address at which she will host Los Angeles' outstanding jazz venue. But it is for her lifetime of service and wholehearted dedication to jazz on many levels that we honor Ruth Price. -- George W. Harris