Ricky Ford is a complete artist who has been exploring different aspects of art throughout his career. He is a veteran bandleader, an in demand sideman, a prolific composer, a unique teacher, and artistic director of the Toucy Jazz Festival that he founded in 2008 in French region Bourgogne. He also paints.
Born in Boston on March 4th, 1954, he was trained at the New England Conservatory of Music by Gunther Schuller, Ran Blake, Jaki Byard, George Russell, Joe Allard and Joe Maneri. Mercer Ellington invited him to join the Duke Ellington Orchestra just a few months after the passing of Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves. Afterwards, he went on to work with Charles Mingus (1976-1977), Dannie Richmond (1978-1981), Lionel Hampton (1980-1982), Abdullah Ibrahim (1983-1990), Mal Waldron (1989-1994), and made recording sessions with Yusef Lateef, Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Amina Claudine Myers, Sathima Bea Benjamin and Steve Lacy, to just name a few. Throughout his career, Ford has strived to master different musical genres, from swing to hard bop to free, focusing closely in the recent past on the works of Turkish poet and musician Neyzen Tevfik (1879-1953).
As a leader, Ricky Ford has recorded 21 albums and authored a vast repertoire of originals. He is also a unique arranger and conductor. From 1985 to 1996 he led Brandeis University’s big band, arranging the works of composers whose music had never been played by big bands. When he settled in Paris in the 1990s, he created another big band before moving to Turkey to teach at the Istanbul Bilgi University (2000-2006). For the past years, Ricky Ford has been working with Ze Big Band, conducted by Fred Burgazzi, with who he has recorded two beautiful albums, 7095 (2009), and Sacred Concert (2013). Ford and Ze Big Band recently created Sketches of Brittany at the Jazz Festival of Vitré. Ricky Ford makes a rare state side visit.