Ross Wooldridge

 "They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore"

In the music industry, you usually can’t have it both ways. You find a musician who gets what life is like in the studio and in front of the stage lights, but who finds the business side of things a mystery. Alternatively, you get the industry insider who knows how to close a deal but not how to hold an instrument. Not so with Ross Wooldridge. This Brantford-based freelance musician and multi-instrumentalist knows how to straddle the divide.

Currently, the centerpiece for Wooldridge's musical output is his Tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet. Created by Wooldridge and fronted by his superb clarinet work, his Tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet has been delighting audiences around southern Ontario since 2005 with refreshingly authentic performances of Goodman's Swing era music. Using five of the most capable sidemen in the country, Wooldridge has created a sensational group. On occasion, he adds Alex Pangman's stylistically accurate and uplifting vocals to the group for extra added delight. His Tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet is a testament to Wooldridge's taste, talent and leadership.

Sharing the spotlight is Wooldridge's role as the musical director, leader and arranger for the Galaxy Orchestra. This fifteen piece big band has entertained in Southern Ontario and Western New York for well over a decade, including Art Park in Lewiston, and the Toronto International Film Festival.  This world class orchestra continues to be in demand in local concert venues. Working from a book of over 400 arrangements, The Galaxy Orchestra is the premier choice for ballroom dance parties, covering all of the big hits from the Big Band era from such great band leaders as Glenn Miller, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman… the list goes on. The band has three renowned theatre stage shows: The Kings Of Swing Big Band Show, The Fabulous Crooners, and their latest show Benny Meets Artie, A Tribute To The Big Bands Of Artie Shaw And Benny Goodman. (Watch Video)

Additionally, Wooldridge is co-leader of Toronto’s renowned traditional jazz band The Dixie Demons.  With two albums to their credit and nearly 30 years in the business, the Dixie Demons have made their mark in Southern Ontario as a sure-fire hit at corporate functions, jazz festivals and night clubs with their virtuoso performances.

Wooldridge’s work with the Dixie Demons caught the ear of the late guitarist and trumpeter Jeff Healey, resulting in membership in Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards and a great friendship.  Another offshoot of this collaboration is Wooldridge’s work with vocalist Alex Pangman, Canada’s Sweetheart of Swing.

As if he weren't busy enough, Wooldridge is also a versatile, sought-after sideman in the Toronto music scene. As well as his critically acclaimed clarinet work, he is also in demand as a saxophonist, keyboard player, arranger and producer. Although noted for his jazz playing, he is valued for his ability to play at a truly proficient level in all styles. He enjoys working with top Canadian talent, such as playing keyboards with singer songwriter Alfie Zappacosta among others.

Simultaneous to his work as a freelance musician, Wooldridge has a gig of a different sort as a teacher for the Toronto District School Board. With his students Wooldridge gets a look the educational side of the music industry, which many musicians never get to see. In his sixteen years at TDSB, Wooldridge learned invaluable information that has helped him as an independent musician, and to his great satisfaction has enabled him to inspire the next generation of young performers.

It is not surprising that Wooldridge, with his interest in early jazz, swing and big band music, is also a student of early recording techniques and the machines and processes that captured what he feels are some of the most inspiring performances ever heard.  His modest collection of records and vintage radios and turntables underscores his appreciation of the art of the well crafted arrangements and musicianship that was integral to the golden age of recording.  This is a passion he was delighted to share with Jeff Healey.  In addition, Wooldridge has a great love of antiques, and simply for well executed design of any sort, be it the beautiful architecture and detail of the Victorian era, to the inspired form and design of machine age devices and art deco buildings and beyond.

With that, it's easy to see why Wooldridge has come to appreciate the beauty and design of vintage cars of various eras. At the present he enjoys driving his 1966 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon and 1966 Dodge Monaco.
Wooldridge's pace shows no signs of slowing down, and he has many exciting projects planned.  To whet your appetite, keep an ear out for a new CD featuring a concert recording with the Galaxy Orchestra from the Benny Meets Artie show, and other new releases featuring his trio, or just him on solo piano.