Reviews & Articles


Reviews: (scroll down, or click on the title below)

jim ridl's door in a field / The Jim Ridl Trio:LIVE /

Blues Liberations / five minutes to madness and joy / your cheatin' heart and other works



"Jim Ridl: Door Openings" by Victor L. Schermer 2/24/2004

"Garden State Improviser:Jim Ridl Tickles the Ivories in South Jersey" by Laura Zaborowski 12/17/2003

from Trenton Times: Friday, October 31, 2003

"'Door in a Field' a Tribute to Musician's Family" by Curt Yeske


"your cheatin' heart and other works"

The Jim Ridl Quintet
Jim Ridl, piano - Ron Kerber, soprano saxophone, JD Walter, vocals, Jef Lee Johnson, guitar and mandolin, Steve Varner, bass, Jim Miller, drums

Dreambox Media #DMJ-1080

more info at (click on Jim Ridl)

Tracks: your cheatin' heart / grazed by light (ridl) / tennessee waltz / caravan / antiphon (tri vulti pacis) (ridl) / "smile" said the drum (ridl)



Jazz Times/ March 2006
“Ridl’s version of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is probably the most in-depth and persuasive jazz investigation of this song on record....What Ridl hears on “Tennessee Waltz” is poignant, graceful and hip.... Ridl’s take on “Caravan” is fresh, caterwauling and free.”

Philadelphia Daily News/ Nov. 2005
“An extraordinary rendering of “Caravan.”

“Jim Ridl Quintet at the Deerhead Inn”
By Victor L. Schermer
Live Performance Review: Jim Ridl Quintet at the Deerhead Inn
Delaware Water Gap, PA
September 3, 2005

“The live performance enabled this quintet, consisting of Jim, J.D. Walter doing vocals, Ron Kerber on soprano sax, Steve Varner, on bass, and Jim Miller on drums (the same crew as on the CD less Jef Lee Johnson, who played guitar and mandolin on two tracks of the album) to go beyond the rigors of a recording session to create a lively and intense jam session, led by the inspiration of the moment to create a very spontaneous, driving set of creative inventions that had the crowd at the edge of their seats, frequently applauding and shouting approval.”

“Jim Ridl is not only a master of jazz piano and a composer/arranger of great capability. In addition, he has mastered his technique so thoroughly that he can create ideas, moods, tempos, images almost at will, weaving a rich fabric of musical experiences with a sense of an evolving whole. “

ALL ABOUT JAZZ CD Review: your cheatin’ heart
sept. 2005

“This cd is no less than a small jazz masterpiece.... In addition to being a highly skilled and accomplished jazz pianist, Jim Ridl is a creative and resourceful musician, composer, and arranger who draws on a rich legacy of musical and personal resources to develop a wide range of musical ideas and concepts.”

Cadence Magazine review: your cheatin’ heart
january 11, 2005

“Seemingly unfettered by technical limitations, Ridl can move from an evocative sonic telling of a scene from his North Dakota childhood to a ferocious romp in an unconventional meter that would daunt all but the most adventurous of Jazz pianists... On Your Cheatin’ Heart, as the title suggests, Ridl controls his digital ferocity so that he can elucidate songs of simplicity and beauty with tweakings of harmonization and meter or improvisational delights of minimalism. Like singers who honor the song, Ridl’s group intends to investigate the feelings such tunes arouse rather than using them as a departure point for abstraction.”


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"jim ridl's door in a field"

Record Label: Dreambox Media #DMJ-1065
Musicians: Jim Ridl (piano, Korg x5d); Darryl Hall (bass); Mark Walker (drums); Diane Monroe (violin); Kathy Ridl (viola, accordion); Jeffrey Solow (cello)

Tracks: Sun on My Hands / Sweet Clover / Caragana / Six Hours Later / Door in a Field / Tenetree / Discin’ / Thirty Foot Ceiling / Green Meadow Waltz



"...I couldn't get past the first song...I listened to it three times before I could go on..." - a listener

"...I am simply blown away by "jim ridl's door in a field". I can't stop listening to it. It has been my companion at work for the last couple of days now. The entire package is a gift and really stirs my emotions." - another listener

"...Ridl... uses the means of music to describe the feelings that wide open spaces engender. As a result, Door in a Field reflects the calmer, more evenly paced tenor of life lived closer to nature than some of Ridl’s other works that involved more jagged themes at a faster tempo and sometimes unconventional meters, reflecting perhaps an East Coast state of mind.

So, the first track, “Sun on My Hands,” reminiscent of Ridl’s deceased father’s work in the fields, glides with rich colors from string accompaniment as a reassuring waltz. “Discin’” contains the same amount of imagery in the creation of the music as Ridl simulates the motion of the plowing of the field, unhurried but unceasing. Even in the slower pace of the life on the farm, Ridl finds celebration in the fields on “Caragana” as Darryl Hall’s strong bass lines and Mark Walker’s rocking beat in the main theme alternate with a straight four in the bridge. Hall takes the melodic lead on “Sweet Clover” as Ridl fills in with spare chords, as Hall proves that he’s one of the more under-recognized bassists on the scene. Ridl concludes this reminiscence about the experiences of his early life on the plains with “Green Meadow Waltz,” a simple Czech folk song adapted to a rolling, Country/Western beat.

Hall and Walker, who hadn’t experienced the same sense of quiet farmland serenity, buy into Ridl’s’ vision and provide a solid, unassuming sense of motion, like windswept wheat. A unified body of work inspired by Ridl’s childhood, Door in a Field, gently direct and infused with a combination of folk and jazz sensibilities, is his most personalized work of restraint, reminiscence and affection." -
Jazz Review

for the full review:

"... Working in a trio format with bassist Daryl Hall and drummer Mark Walker, and aided by a string trio on several tracks, Ridl has composed and performed a heartfelt tribute to his parents, who raised him and his siblings on a North Dakota farm. .. deliver(s) real jazz that manages to evoke the unadorned majesty of the prairie with subtlety and grace. The strings are sparingly employed in a classic manner, adding harmonic depth without ever sounding syrupy. Ridl's style is melodic and cleanly delineated, with occasional excursions into rhythmic vamps and metric quirks to keep things interesting. “Sun On My Hands”, the lead-off track, is a lovely ballad with some enigmatic melodic turns. Hall introduces the infectiously bouncy melody of “Sweet Clover,” which is then picked up and developed with aplomb by Ridl. Walker's funky backbeat drives Ridl's percolating piano along on the groovy “Six Hours Later”, which is followed by the desolately beautiful title track in a stately 6. “Discin'” evokes the tractor's ever decreasing circles as the farmer harrows a field. A propulsive 10-beat phrase powers “Thirty Foot Ceiling”, inspiring Ridl's best solo work; he's really cookin' here. An arrangement of the Czech folk song ”Green Meadow Waltz” provides the album with a poignant, but good-humored conclusion. Door In A Field was clearly a labor of love for Ridl, and his collaborators seem to have understood his vision. Together, the musicians have made a gorgeous album of great emotional and musical power. Concept or no, it is a special achievement. - All About Jazz

for the full review:

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The Jim Ridl Trio: LIVE

Record Label: Dreambox Media #DMJ-1055
Musicians: Jim Ridl, piano; Steve Varner, bass; Jim Miller, drums

Documenting a late 1999 concert near Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, this release features the Jim Ridl Trio in extended performances of three Ridl originals and two standards, plus a characteristic piano solo.

Tracks: Prelude to First Rose / First Rose / Only Half a Cup? / Get After It Boogie / Caravan / Song of The Green River / Cherokee


"Ridl shows his capacity to mix abstraction and romanticism. 'First Rose' develops this mixture, supporting a harmonic work more than melody, but with a certain tenderness. He does this by working the harmonic dissonances and abstractions, while generally keeping a bop spirit, which makes of Ridl a musician a little left of center (on the left of the medium), as they say in the United States....Jim Miller and Steve Varner supplement perfectly the shifted approach of the pianist and also deliver solos of quality.

...Other facets of Ridl appear during the three following personal compositions. 'Only Half a Cup?' begins with a topic whose dry humour points out Monk. It is followed by a blues-tinted improvisation, played initially with a very short touch (I am tempted to say transitory) and a variety of attractive abstraction, before Ridl goes up in intensity. 'Get After It Boogie,' a solo, continues in this vein, its interest being in the fact that Ridl manages to play a recognizable boogie-woogie, without being neither a passeist, nor simply ironic.

...The last composition of Ridl's, 'Song of the Green River,' is perhaps most interesting mélodically. While alternating between a slow and dark vamp in three and a lighter passage in four, Ridl creates a fertile material to imagine the life of this river. Varner and Miller deliver here two splendid solos, that of Miller over the initial vamp being particularly dramatic.

... On the standards 'Caravan' and 'Cherokee,' Ridl gives up a little the most abstracted elements from his style to play dynamic bebop. In spite of that, he approaches these pieces in a rather original way: His solo introduction on 'Cherokee' imagines a ballad, while 'Caravan' becomes much lighter than usual. Steve Varner delivers on this last an attractive solo mixing double stops, hesitations, melodies, blues and a little Mingus, before a more funky trio coda. Miller's solo on 'Cherokee' contains a splendid passage during which he plays the melody of the piece on his toms."
- Mwanji Ezana, Citizen Jazz

" hour-plus of stimulating trio music...The sharing of ideas, the development of individual themes, and the ensuing collective improvisations are what lift the set preserved here far above the ordinary...the wide berth given the mixture of standards and originals shows the Trio in highly empathic form.

...Ridl displays strong, perhaps classically-based, technique. But the ensuing group interplay is near-selfless, valuing silence as much as activity, repose as much as sweat. Ridl expands, in 'First Rose,' on his opening prelude statements, turning clipped phrases into a platform for Varner and Miller to alternately walk alongside him and engage in a dance. 'Only Half A Cup?' has the three cooking along Ridl's sly blues connotations for a performance that would do any denizen of the Vanguard or Blue Note proud.

...The classic 'Caravan' suits Ridl's thoughtful playing to a T, and it's great to hear Steve Varner's dark, woody bass tone decorate the Ducal writing. Miller, it should be mentioned, has a masterful grasp of dynamics, enhancing the often muted quality of the proceedings with close listening, and heating things up most appropriately when needed, almost casually tossing out the melody of 'Cherokee' (so nice to hear this tune approached in non-traditional ways), after Ridl and company unfurl its parameters, and ride it out for nearly 14 minutes of thrilling invention. Great album." - Cadence

"...those who came out two years ago heard a very hard-working trio deliver a satisfying performance. Ridl's style isn't easy to categorize: he can play vertical games, even as he sets up a well-articulated, fine line through some of the challenging harmonic courses he crafts for himself. 'First Rose' is a thorny structure whose progression seems to wring whole-tone scalar figures out of the piano. Ridl reworks both 'Caravan' and 'Cherokee' into wide-open frameworks that give him, bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller plenty of stretching room. This is a trio that takes lots of chances, and delivers handsomely..." - JazzTimes

"Pianist Jim Ridl dares a listener to take this journey. This live daunting, high-minded stuff...Ridl takes some mind-blowing excursions with bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller. A live connection flows among the players on this straight-ahead but questing set. The pianist creates some shimmering runs on 'First Rose,' while the standard 'Caravan' gets worked over until it's fresh and utterly reinvented....The explorations can be exhausting...this set is powerful."
- Philadelphia Inquirer

"The Jim Ridl Trio LIVE proceeds as an organically arranged set, starting with a solo performance of 'Prelude To First Rose,' its minor-tinged theme hinting at mystery and meditation developed over an Impressionistic set of tones rather than setting-the-mind-at-ease chord changes. As the sustain of the prelude's final chord fades, bassist Steve Varner in a mood-setting solo creates the forward movement for the connected tune, 'First Rose.' Ridl stretches time and inserts his own quirky thoughts after referring to the lines Varner introduced and upon which the piece is built. As the tune intensifies, we find that Ridl, after a full keyboard descent, crafts rising and falling coruscations of notes, which, although not Pullenesque in their sweep and drama, assume a delicacy and deliberateness that characterize Ridl's style.

...After performing 'Only Half A Cup?' an off-kilter blues that appeared on previous recordings, Ridl starts 'Get After It Boogie' with a tentative rumble until the left hand develops the repetitive, but thrillingly dynamic pattern.

While the 'Caravan' intro consists of quarter notes stitched seamlessly together by use of the sustain pedal, the audience at the Café found that it led into a pleasing and energetic version of the tune involving successive choruses of trio improvisation, allowing Varner to stretch out into a two-minute interpretation of his own.

...'Song Of The Green River' is consistent with Ridl's interest in evoking images of Americana, and specifically of his homeland in the upper Midwest, in some of his performances. Involving the depiction of, one assumes, the river that flows from the Grand Tetons into northeast Utah, 'Song Of The Green River' nonetheless moves along a prodding 6-note figure that combines scenic depiction with soft rippling and eddying without the drama of rapids or falls.

Ending the concert with the familiar 'Cherokee,' Ridl plays the song as a straight trio version of head and improvisations, similar in may respects to 'Caravan.'

Too often gems of instantaneous improvised composition go unrecorded, and thus unknown, beyond the appreciation of the immediate audience; fortunately Jim Ridl's trio was, for once, recorded live to allow his growing fan base to enjoy his talent in a situation previously unavailable on CD." -

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Blues Liberations

Record Label: Dreambox Media #EAR-1049
Musicians: Jim Ridl, solo piano

A collection of improvised piano solos - each titled after the fact - exploring and stretching the boundaries of the blues.

Tracks: Blue Azzara / Just Left of the Delta / Battle of the Bands / Play, My Heart, In Blue / Aisle Five / La Dee, La Daa / Prelude and More / Get After It Boogie / Clusters Last Stand / Pass It On / Snake Dance / You Know How It Is / Rushzin' Berz Bluz / Uh Huh, That's Right / Blue Corn / Slinky / Descending on Io / A Lovely Impression / Blue Dot


"...a set of 19 piano improvisations that show him to be an imaginative and insightful player. He has a lot of technique at his command but he also has the confidence to not be showing it off at every turn of the phrase....Although largely a melodic player, he doesn't shy away from dissonance...He's also a player who's not afraid to show he has a sense of humor.
...enjoyable..." - Cadence

"Jim Ridl is quite an interesting player...Ridl certainly comes up with original ways to build on ideas that can be traced to blues playing, albeit usually in a pretty abstract way...Ridl doesn't sound like anyone that comes to mind, which is a good sign, but it makes his playing hard to describe. The harmonic sense is advanced and probably owes something to Europeans like Bartok, but I am also reminded of Abdullah Ibrahim's more adventurous work in places." - JazzTimes

"Pianist Jim Ridl demonstrates impressive technical skills, finding cool colors in his madcap dashes through the keys... 'Battle of the Bands' is a chordal slugfest that reaches reasonable heights, and 'Get After It Boogie' exudes a nice running vibe...impressive..." - Philadelphia Inquirer

"Ridl has done it again...The interesting aspect of all of the pieces on 'Blues Liberations' is that they are based upon blues changes, either by implication or by a W.C. Handy type of moving-tenth left-hand stroll. The result is pure improvisation, quirky, explorative, ruminative or admiring of the genre....'Blues Liberations' is unlike any other blues album in its combination of intellectual fascination for the art form with unplanned approaches of elucidation. Not only does 'Blues Liberations' suggest the infinite possibilities of the blues, but it adds one more unpredictable approach from Ridl, who certainly deserves recognition..." - Jazz News

"Taking something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, Jim Ridl accomplishes something uncommon on 'Blues Liberations' that seems painfully obvious: He investigates the multitudinous forms of the blues...Ridl's avenues of approach involve discrepant and sometimes contradictory routes as they converge at the ultimate source of the music.
Rather than extended themes, Ridl's blues variations establish a mood and then go on to the next assumption. That is, we can assume the blues to suggest languor and sadness. We can assume the blues to depict frenzy. We can assume the blues to attain majesty. We can assume the blues to sort out complexity for a resulting simplicity of result.

...So, 'Aisle Five' is all frantic stop-and-start motion referring by indirection and arpeggios to the blues chord structure as the full-keyboarded scamper refers perhaps to discount store chaos. We've heard this mastery of the instrument before on Ridl's previous CD, 'Five Minutes To Madness & Joy,' wherein his percussive and expansive approach proves a personalized technique. In contrast to 'Aisle Five,' Ridl refers to the more often heard piano blues approach of walking tenths and bent dissonances on 'Play, My Heart, In Blue' or 'You Know How It Is.' 'Get After It Boogie' relies upon an irresistible, flowing left-hand phrase somewhat akin to the 34 of 'I Feel Pretty,' but still off kilter with a less-predictable meter. 'Clusters Last Stand' indeed wittily develops a blues through tonal clusters, sounding sometimes like Brubeck's broad chords that defy final resolution through suspended intervals.

'Blues Liberations' arose from Ridl's pure improvisations on the blues as he considered alternative approaches to a century-old form. Often without title, but rather involving concept, Ridl's tracks didn't assume titles until after they were recorded. The naming was less important than the musical curiosity revealed through the performance." - All About Jazz

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five minutes to madness and joy

Record Label: Synergy Music #SMCD-80008-2

Musicians: Jim Ridl, piano; Darryl Hall, bass; Jim Miller, drums


“...[this recording offers] the special, interactive satisfaction that comes from hearing fresh, creative talent in the process of discovering its voice.” - DownBeat Magazine

"It’s easy to understand why guitar great Pat Martino chose Jim Ridl as his current pianistic foil and right-hand man. Few other pianists have the kind of surging energy and harmonic ingenuity it takes to hang with Pat. A major talent who is gradually gaining recognition, Ridl has a strong penchant for reharmonization, as he demonstrates here o a modal adaptation of Sunny Rollin’s “Oleo” (or as he recently demonstrated n Denis DiBlasio’s Rhino on Encounter Music). He so thoroughly investigates John Coltrane’s “moment’s Notice,” slowing the tempo down and reforming it into a dark, introspective ballad, that he is wholly within his rights to claim arranger credit and rename the piece “Adagio of John Coltrane.” Likewise with his brilliant, radically recast solo rendition of Trane’s “A Love Supreme.”

Ridl is ably accompanied here (as he was on DiBlasio’s CD) by his very flexible rhythm section mates, Darryl Hall on bass and Jim Miller on drums. Together they strike a swinging accord on Ridl’s bristling “Paint Your Rhythm” and organically meld into one gentle voice on his moving, hymn-like “Carry Me Home,” which carries illusions to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The title track, inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem “One Hour to Madness and Joy” from Leaves of Grass, is done as a bravado solo piece at the outset and is reprised at the close as an aggressively swinging trio offering. And Ridl’s jaunty original, “Sylvester’s Rag” is heavily indebted to Thelonious Monk’s “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues Are.”

If Ridl, a mild-mannered product of North Dakota who currently resides somewhere in suburban New Jersey, was hanging regularly on the New York City scene, he’d be dripping with critical acclaim by now. Talent this rich, deep, and focused simply cannot be denied, whether it comes from the outer regions of Jersey or the Outback of Australia. Remember that name." - Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes Magazine

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