By Patte Purcell

Many of you are familiar with Ronnie King the Multi-Platinum, Diamond Certified (more than 10,000,000 units) Oscar and Grammy Nominated producer, composer, arranger, musician and philanthropist, who has collaborated with artists including Mariah Carey, Tupac and Snoop Dogg.

Were you aware that he got his roots in jazz? Ronnie King is a native of the desert. He was born in Indio, one of the sons of a very musical family. His grandfather was a jazz trumpet player who was called “Papa”. He moved to the desert and started playing at Country Clubs when Ronnie was a boy.

Ronnie started playing trumpet with his brother, John (Stanley King), who was 14 years old when Ronnie was only 8 years old. They would jam with the younger kids in the family. His sister taught classical and jazz piano. That’s what Ronnie really gravitated to. He was playing jazz songs by Chick Corea and Art Tatum by the time he was 14.

He studied both classical and jazz until he was 21. His classical piano teacher noticed how his jazz style was inherent in his classical music and encouraged him to go with it.

When he was a senior in high school, his brother John got them a jazz gig at El Moracco in Indio. He met and worked with Bill Ferguson a well-known guitarist who introduced him to Joe Jagge and Scott Smith and played improv style. In essence, Ronnie grew up surrounded by jazz musicians. While in high school he studied jazz theory and has a wider knowledge than the majority of jazz artists in the market.

John introduced him to Wayne Henderson of the Jazz Crusaders whose members included Joe Sample. Wayne took a liking to Ronnie and brought him in to do recordings with Nduggu Chancellor on drums and Ronnie Laws, with Wayne as producer.

He moved to LA and made a decision to produce popular music (hip hop and rap) and has made a tremendous name for himself. He wrote and produced for The Pointer Sisters who were the back-up singers for the Jazz Crusaders.

He toured with Debarge, which he said was essentially a jazz show with their R&B hits worked in. He also commented that the Gap Band and Earth Wind and Fire were essentially jazz bands too.

The first time I saw Ronnie was at French 75 in Laguna where he played a beautiful grand piano and had some great artists come in and sing a tune or play. Great times, great gig. I’ve always been impressed with his style.

I invited him to attend the BMW of Palm Springs Smooth Jazzfest at the Riviera a few weeks ago and he brought his friend Alvin Taylor who is a mega star of the drum world. Taylor has played with super stars including George Harrison and Elton John. (At age 14 Alvin was opening for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Little Richard but that’s a whole other story!)

When Ronnie texted me about the Jazzfest I thought we should talk since we have similar interests in jazz. After a great conversation I decided to do my column on Ronnie because the big news is he’s coming back to the jazz scene in a big way.

Ronnie built a recording studio and sound stage out amongst the cactus in Thermal called ‘Chateau Relaxo’. He’s recording a new CD with Alvin (working title) Alvin Taylor and friends. They’ve written 9 songs to date and plan to do a live recording in the near future. Unlike other highly scripted recordings they are going to go with the flow. Alvin is bringing in some of his gold standard artists to play on the CD. Ronnie said he’d like to bring in James Debarge to do some vocals. It will be an innovative, totally hip and new vibe for the desert. The perfect way to bring back the jazz!

Ronnie stressed that his goal is to help this community rebuild a new legacy of music coming out of the desert. “The rockers and heavy metal guys are retiring in Joshua Tree while the jazz guys really like the Coachella Valley. There are some great musicians here and many more have 2nd homes here,” he shared.

My favorite line from him was “after you’ve played rock and heavy metal, you want to come back and play some jazz with your buddies.”

The entertainment legacy of the desert with the Rat Pack and Elvis needs to be recreated with a new generation. Ronnie is working with others to educate budding musicians about all aspects of the business and was one of the speakers at the music industry seminar that was held last weekend.

We discussed that communication amongst the musicians is what is needed to make this the hippest jazz place in the country (my goal). We are both working on getting the word out to make this happen!

I’m pleased to announce that I am putting together a series of ‘Celebrity Jazz Jams’ that will take place monthly during the season. The first one will be held at Arnold Palmers out on the patio for a Jazz Jam Brunch on Sunday Nov. 22 from 11-3 pm. Ronnie has graciously agreed to come in and play as a guest artist. He’s got chops my friends, wait until you hear him! He’s also going to invite some of his friends to join us as well.

He moved back to the desert a few years ago.  Ronnie King loves ‘coming back home’ and is looking forward to helping this community stay true to its music and entertainment roots. With the energy and passion he brings to his work, I have no doubt he will make a lasting impression on this town and this industry.

Patte Purcell – Muze Muzic  1-702-219-6777