Seeing as how I was aware of this guy from my college days in Philly, this blog is long overdue to mention pianist Jim Ridl (pronounced "riddle"). Originally from North Dakota, educated at University of Colorado, Denver, currently living in New Jersey, and a staple of the Philly/NJ/NYC scenes, Ridl has been providing his superior pianistics for players like guitarist Pat Martino and saxmen Dave Liebman, Denis DiBlasio, and Charles Pillow.
His expressive playing can be bright and percussive with the brilliance of a McCoy Tyner, but he can also summon up the wistful tension and nuance of a Bill Evans. Having majored in scoring and arranging in his college days, Ridl is a fabulous composer with a knack for catchy melodies and hip harmony -- a modern-day Horace Silver perhaps with a touch of James Williams or even Geoffrey Keezer. Also a masterful writer of ballads, he's responsible for "Sun on My Hands," a tune that, even after Ridl's decade-long tenure in Pat Martino's band, can still be found in Martino's songbook today. I was lucky enough to catch both of them performing it as a duet back in Philly a couple years ago. Ridl's latest release, Your Cheatin' Heart and Other Works, features Philly musicians Ron Kerber on sax with drummer Jim Miller (also the owner of his label Dreambox Media) and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, bassist Steve Varner, and vocalist J.D. Walter.
Listen to Ridl's group stretch out on "'Smile,' Said the Drum (For Elvin)," and buy Your Cheatin' Heart!
Also, check out his album Door in a Field. Very keen writing from Ridl: a piano trio augmented by a violin, viola, and cello.
P.S. Also, grab yourself a copy of Martino's hard-to-find Nightwings. Ridl is in top form here alongside his longtime bandleader.