The weather has turned cold and the restaurants and bars along the Providence River are a bit quieter, but Ritchee Price still gets out there with his trumpet and plays. An alum of the Lionel Hampton and Count Basie Orchestras, professional musician, teacher, and general student of the world, this local jazz legend is known for his evening serenades outside the Wild Colonial and along the river where people can stop and watch a man give a Master Class in the most important art of all: practice.
For Price, practicing outside is different than practicing at home. Outdoors, his music interacts with the environment in ways that it doesn’t in a room. In open spaces, his music becomes part of the world; it travels and lands in unexpected places and interacts with more than just four walls. Although, as Price will tell you, playing indoors is just as important.
“If I want to play loud and with high notes, the walls make me feel trapped because the sound bounces back to me. Outside I can play as loud and as high as I want,” he says. “The good part about practicing indoors is that I can adjust my volume to sound like I am playing in a private party. Music is meant to be played in a public forum and to be played indoors with one person listening – yourself.”
Since March, Price has found his music to be a connection between himself and anyone within earshot. His regular practicing has been a vibrant point of light to counteract the worries of day-to-day life. In fact, several readers wrote to let us know how much his playing has comforted them during this time. These small connections are not lost on Price.
“Last week a gentleman around 25 years old came up to me in a wheelchair and thanked me for making him and his girlfriend feel good. He wanted to give me a can of beer!” Price recalls with delight. “Also, a lady came up to me in her car and said she had been trying to find me for a few weeks. She offered me a job to play the National Anthem at her meeting of the Rotary Club. There is a student who I taught when he was in eighth grade who saw me at the Providence River last Saturday, practicing, and called his mother on his cell phone and then took a picture of both of us. I almost cried!”
The canon of Price is vast: He has an Armed Forces medley that the “workers on Main Street like” and renditions of Ave Maria, Duke Ellington songs, pop standards, jazz ballads, and even the occasional Beatles tune that might make a teenager on a skateboard stop and say “I know that tune!”
All of this adds up to a shared joy, an embrace and connection over songs presented in their most basic and unpolished forms that, as Price says, “makes me feel good!”
Thankfully, Price is still out there sharing that feeling.