Ronnie Singer: Forgotten Jazz Guitar Legend

A while back I had written about Ronnie Singer. For those of you who don’t know, he is sort of a gap in the jazz continuum that might’ve altered how jazz guitar developed had he lived. Because his sound is similar (he is using the same guitar as Jimmy, the Gibson ES 150 and he uses similar slurring techniques), you might at first mistake him for Jimmy when you listen to him. But his approach is a bit more direct and active and, unlike almost any other jazz guitarists at the time (save Jimmy), much more fluent in the “real deal” vocabulary of bebop and its proper execution. For example, to my ears, he and Dad were the only jazz guitarists at that point making frequent use of the alternate tritone progression (bVI-bII7). You notice it right out of the box on Tea for Two (in tape key of Ab?) when he plays on an E-7 lick over Eb7 (aka altered dominant).

He was active on the jazz scene first in Chicago in the 40s and then New York in the late 40’s and 50s. He and Dad knew each other during that time. My father held him in highest esteem. It’s actually too bad I didn’t speak with him in depth about their relationship but I may do a follow up after I speak with my brother, Doug who may have heard some more stories.

Recently thru the internet I’ve come into contact with Ronnie’s sister, Joyce Glantz who has made the rounds on my site and some others on the subject of Ronnie. She also (re)pointed me to a prior email contact of mine, guitarist Axel Hagen. Hagen, although not so well known here, is established on the scene in the Netherlands and Germany and is a fine guitarist. He has a new website and a whole page tab devoted to Ronnie Singer AND has the additional lost cuts of Ronnie Singer. Originally there were only 3 available on the net thru guitarist Felix Lemerle. Axel’s site has 7. There are pictures that have never been seen from Ronnie Singer’s childhood. He also has some interesting stories to tell on the search for Ronnie Singer. In 1993, the year of Jimmy’s stroke he managed to spend an entire afternoon discussing music with Jimmy, and the subject of Ronnie Singer came up. Axel had been there to to talk with his idol Jimmy and he had previously never heard of Ronnie. Dad referred to the tape he had received from a friend that had Ronnie on it (which he let me listen to in 1985 when I was staying with him in Louisville), but he could not locate the tape for Axel. At the point my father’s house was in chaos, so I have no doubt it would’ve been hard to find. This was the starting point of Axel’s quest for the lost Ronnie Singer music.

Here is the link to Axel’s Ronnie Singer page. The actual recordings of Ronnie can be heard on the recordings subtab. If you don’t know already these are the only known recordings of Ronnie and the quality is poor. Nevertheless they are a wonderful document. Axel has posted his transcription of Ronnie’s Solo to “All the Things You Are” on the site as well.

So thanks to Axel, Joyce for continuing to keep the legend of Ronnie going. Hopefully more info will surface in the future.

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