From Trenton Times: Friday, October 31, 2003

'Door in a Field' a Tribute to Musician's Family

by Curt Yeske

You can't miss jazz pianist Jim Ridl's new CD "Door in a Field." It's the one with the bright graphics showing a man's shadow against a door, standing free in the 22-degree chill and brilliant sunlight of a North Dakota farm field. The recording is a poignant tribute to Ridl's parents and their way of life - operating a cattle ranch while raising five children and maintaining their European cultural heritage.

Ridl, who has lived in Hamilton for more than 10 years while playing the top jazz venues in New York, Europe and Japan, will perform works from "Door in a Field" Sunday afternoon at Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum in Cadwalader Park.
Those who have heard Ridl with such high performance groups as Denis DiBlasio, Pat Martino or at any of the jazz festivals may be in for a surprise.

Ridl has an international reputation for some exhaustive improvisation at tempos that boggle the mind. It's not uncommon for fans, as well as his many musician friends, to listen to one of Ridl's five-minute uptempo explorations, look at each other and to only be able to utter, "wow."

When they hear "Door in a Field," they are again likely to say "wow," but for a different reason. It's not a burning jam session. Although in one sense very introspective, it is primarily a compositional ensemble that allows Ridl to express his appreciation for the legacy that came from his parents and his homesteading grandparents.

Ridl is one of those artists who hears something in his head and somehow figures out a way to make it work. In this case, it was getting his old friend Darryl Hall, the award-winning bassist, and drummer Mark Walker to buy into his concept.

Ridl's wife, Kathy, who plays viola and accordion on the recording, recalled how the album evolved. (Jim was in Ireland last week with Pat Martino.) "Mark and Darryl had not played together previously, but Jim knew they would work well together. He wanted to hit it melodically, keeping the integrity of the compositions. Darryl and Mark really got into the concept and all three were thrilled with the results."

She said the recording was completed last summer and Jim took a copy to the family's annual Christmas gathering at the ranch in Dickinson, N.D. "Jim's parents, Gordon and Agnes, heard the recording along with the rest of the family and they loved it. They had been very supportive of Jim's career right from the very beginning and this was his way of saying how much he appreciated the legacy and a way of life they provided for their children. It was not long after that (Jan. 2) that Jim's father died and Jim dedicated the album to his parents," she says.

The strings and the accordion additions were a connection to the Norwegian and Czech folk music heard at Ridl family gatherings. Kathy Ridl said that grandfather Laudie Ridl had played Czech songs on his accordion and that music had been imprinted collectively on the family. After his death, Jim and Kathy found one of his accordions in a closet and used it on the CD.

Ridl's compositions are succinct and easily connect the listener to the musical image while compositionally maintaining their integrity as works of art. "Sun on my Hands" describes the patina of his father's skin tones from years and seasons of working outdoors; "Sweet Clover" depicts the aroma of the prairie fields; "Caragana" is a reflection of a row of trees that help define the ranch; "Tenetree" is Ridl's concept of belief and nature (that by growing up on the land, one appreciates the strength and beauty of living things); "Discin' " reflects the monotony of preparing the fields for planting; and "Green Meadow Waltz" is a Czech folk song favored by his grandfather.

Although poignant, the CD in final analysis is a joyful opus by someone who had the talent and the initiative to express his feelings to those who matter most while they could still appreciate them.

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