Ross Wooldridge at Fieldcote

Ancaster Native Returns With a Tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet 

Ancaster News July 8, 2010 - When Ross Wooldridge picked up a clarinet as an Ancaster High School student, he knew he was destined for a career as a professional jazz musician. Wooldridge, 48, headlines a July 11 performance with his Tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet, next week’s installment in the Music at Fieldcote outdoor concert series. Jazz enthusiasts can enjoy a wide selection of trademark Benny Goodman tunes, from Air Mail Special to Slipped Disc, Memories of You and After You’ve Gone. Fresh from a sold-out performance at Brantford’s Downtown Jazz Series, Wooldridge and his musical ensemble will re-ignite 1930s and ‘40s jazz nostalgia at Fieldcote’s natural outdoor amphitheatre setting.

Growing up in rural Jerseyville, Wooldridge spent many evenings listening to his parents’ records and discovering jazz masters like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. While images of 1930s and ‘40s jazz musicians bring to mind scenes of dancing and revelry, Wooldridge was especially dazzled by the performers’ ... read more technical virtuosity. “It was meant to be engaging,” said Wooldridge. “You listen and watch the virtuosity of the players.”

Wooldridge studied applied music at both Mohawk and Humber colleges before relocating to Toronto in the early 1980s. He’s also dabbled in pop music while immersing himself in the Toronto music scene for more than two decades. He now lives just minutes from his hometown in nearby Brantford. Wooldridge previously performed at Fieldcote in 2008 along with Jeff Healey and the Jazz Wizards.

This month the accomplished jazz clarinetist returns to the Music at Fieldcote summer series to entertain hometown listeners. Benny Goodman was world renowned for his jazz improvisation and the Ross Wooldridge sextet strives for same variety. The improvisation takes new and exciting twists each time a piece is performed. “It’s never the same song twice, even if it’s the same song,” said Wooldridge.

Like the Benny Goodman sextet, Wooldridge has surrounded his ensemble with world-class jazz musicians. Don Thompson joins Wooldridge on vibes, along with Danny McErlain on piano, guitarist Jessie Barksdale, bassist Chris Banks and drummer Glenn Anderson. With a professional career spanning nearly three decades, Wooldridge is a multi-talented performer who also plays saxophone, flute and piano. His life’s work includes arrangement and production credits. Wooldridge has performed with some of Canada’s best jazz musicians, including the late Jeff Healey. Wooldridge has been frequently nominated for clarinetist of the year in the National Jazz Awards Canada competition. On several occasions he’s been a runner-up to Phil Nimmons, a Vancouver-born composer and performer with a world-class profile.

Wooldridge figures being mentioned alongside Nimmons puts him in very good company. “You have to tip your hat to Phil,” said Wooldridge. The Ross Wooldridge sextet was born from an idea for a 2005 Toronto Jazz Concert series. Sponsored by JazzFM 91.1, the showcase featured a tribute to Benny Goodman. The sextet has remained intact ever since, garnering rave reviews and sell-out crowds. Fans who visit Fieldcote this month have a rare opportunity to hear the Wooldridge sextet free of charge, thanks to the generosity of Music at Fieldcote’s corporate donors.

The July 11 performance is sponsored by Scarfone Hawkins LLP. Along with the Brantford Downtown Jazz Series, Wooldridge and his sextet are booked to perform at the Port Hope Jazz Festival this fall, the Lancaster Jazz Club in Kitchener and several other stops along the way. Music at Fieldcote began on June 27 with a performance by Juno award winning artist Connie Kaldor. The series continues this week with George Fox. Dubbed the professor of country music, Fox is a three-time Juno award winner and a past winner of Canada’s top male country vocalist. Ross Wooldridge and his Tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet take the stage from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Fieldcote gazebo, 64 Sulphur Springs Rd. Admission is free.

By Mike Pearson, News Staff