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Friday, August 14th – 5:30-8:00 pm
Jimmy Ryan, R.I.P.
The Bird & Beckett Bebop Band
pays tribute!

jimmy-ryan-2jpg1Sad to say, Jimmy Ryan passed away Wednesday morning, July 8, 2015. Jimmy was long known to Bird & Beckett regulars as the featured drummer in our long-running Friday series of neighborhood jazz parties.

On Jimmy’s scheduled August 14th date, from 5:30-8:00 pm, his band will reconvene to pay tribute to this wonderful man and vital jazz musician.

Vocalist Dorothy Lefkovits, who introduced Jimmy to the store way back in 2002, will be on hand on the 14th to sing with the musicians who were at the core of Jimmy’s “Bird & Beckett BeBop Band,” which had a long run in our Friday night jazz series.  Trombonist Stu Pilorz and sax player Joe Cohen are on the front line, with a rhythm section comprising pianist Don Alberts, bassist Bishu Chatterjee and drummer Ron Marabuto sitting in for the man himself.  Also on hand will be bassist Aaron Cohn and likely several of Jimmy’s colleagues from times gone by.

Jimmy suffered a heart attack on Monday, July 6th, while on a hike with his wife Rory in a wilderness area near Monterey. Rory administered CPR and kept him alive until a medical team was able to hike in to them and carry him out to a hospital, but two days later he left us.

Jimmy was much more than just a jazz musician, of course, though his work and joy in the music were very obviously at the core of his life — and what led him to Rory. They met at Bird & Beckett on one of Jimmy’s gigs and married not long after. When asked, Jimmy put his identity as a devoutly religious Christian in the forefront. For years and with great consistency, he practiced his faith working in prisons and undoubtedly in countless other ways. He was also the proud father of several children, many of whom are extraordinarily talented musicians.

But at Bird & Beckett, we knew him best as a joyful drummer with a long, great history in the music and a real dedication to it. He learned his trade in Los Angeles in the 1950s, and hit the San Francisco scene (by way of a short stint in Monterey) in 1960. Along the way, Jimmy played alongside such influential musicians as Putter Smith, Vince Wallace, Kent Glenn and Bishop Norman Williams, putting in significant time in the early 1960s at legendary San Francisco clubs including Jimbo’s Bop City and Ronnie’s Soulville in the Fillmore and the Jazz Workshop in North Beach. In a more recent era, after a decade or more off the scene, Jimmy restarted his career in the music when he subbed in for another drummer at the Gathering Caffè on Grant Avenue in North Beach, where alto player Bishop Norman Williams and pianist B.J. Papa were schooling a new generation of San Francisco jazz players, including Jimmy’s son, Joel, a fine trumpet player.

Jimmy first began playing at Bird & Beckett in about 2002, when singer Dorothy Lefkovits brought in a trio led by guitarist Henry Irvin for what became a regular monthly Sunday date.  While on the gig, Jimmy noted a flyer advertising tenor player Chuck Peterson’s trio, which had just begun its long-running Friday “jazz in the bookshop” series. He had known and played with Chuck in an earlier phase of his career, and soon became the drummer on Chuck’s weekly bookstore dates in a quartet that also featured bassist Don Prell and guitarist Scott Foster.  The Friday series continues to this day, having never skipped a single date since its inception, and among the core players, only Jimmy has passed on.

Drummer Jimmy Ryan, with trumpeter Joel Ryan and bassist Bishu Chatterjee. Photo courtesy of Baytaper.com

Drummer Jimmy Ryan, with trumpeter Joel Ryan and bassist Bishu Chatterjee. Photo courtesy of Baytaper.com

Along the way, the Friday quartet split into component parts, such that each of the players took one of the Fridays and built his own band. Jimmy’s Bird & Beckett Bebop Band became the regular attraction at the bookshop on the second Friday of each month, and has typically been a quintet and sometimes a sextet, often featuring singer Dorothy Lefkovits, with core personnel that has included Henry Hung, trumpet; Stu Pilorz, trombone; Joe Cohen, sax; Don Alberts, piano; Bishu Chatterjee and Aaron Cohn, sharing the bass position; and Jimmy on drums. Bassist Charles Thomas and sax player Stephen Norfleet had significant runs with this band as well, and Jimmy’s son Joel was often heard on trumpet with the band.  A fine set of photographs of Jimmy with his band can be found at this link:  http://www.baytaper.com/2008/12/18/jimmy-ryan-friends-live-at-bird-beckett/

He is missed!  Jimmy’s Bird & Beckett Bebop Band, of which he was justifiably proud, performed as scheduled Friday, July 10th, at Bird & Beckett. The date’s personnel included vocalist Dorothy Lefkovits, Stu Pilorz on trombone, Joe Cohen on tenor sax, Don Alberts on piano and Aaron Coen on bass, with Ron Marabuto sitting in for Jimmy on drums. Regular B&B Bebop Band member Henry Hung (trumpet) joined the band on the second set, as did long-time associate Rick Elmore (trombone). Bishu Chatterjee, one of two regular bassists with the group, was on hand although he didn’t have a chance to take the stage before he had to cut out. Jeff Kaliss read three poems by pianist Don Alberts, with the band backing him up, to open the evening. Jimmy’s widow, Rory, was on hand with other family members feeling his spirit permeating the joyful proceedings.  On Jimmy’s regularly scheduled August 14th date, the band will reconvene to complete their tribute to this wonderful man and vital jazz musician.


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