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Evansville, Indiana
March 6, 1992     The Message
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March 6, 1992
 

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!' 6, 1992 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Wdllie. Ruff Jazz musician to perform March 17 at St. Maw Church, Evansville Y MARY ANN HUGHES essage staff writer was 14 years old. He faked le Ruff can hear the el  a contralto voice plays his French the closest sound I found outside the musician has been lag to duplicate that Sound since he was a growing up in Alabama. he book, Willie and by William Zissner, of listening to "the of a great contralto in tptist church named Appleton. She had rn-like quality in people used to ask decided to play the I said that it was I could get to Miss Or to Mr. Buddy Jenk- sang bass in the They both sang ff solos, and people ill were just over- by the extraordi- of those two Wasn't only the beauty voice; it was the poetic s. It was what bring to a melody. ever remember a fu- Sheffield when peo- have it in their will Y wanted Miss Celia Uddy to sing. That's a never forget." is a jazz musician and Ssor at Yale Univer- chool of Music. His )no] ties to music go War II. He was Evansville with his a cousin encour- to join the army. He hearsing "Ballet Egyptn,nne. hisageand his father'ssigna- Ruff and Lewis had been lure on the parent consent form anti soon found himself in the army training to be- come a truckdriver. His career in music was born one afternoon when he was sitting at a piano playing "Pine Tops Boogie." A sergeant told him, "You ought to be in the band -- we've got enough truck- drivers." He found the camp's band director and told him, "If you let me learn the French horn I promise you I'll work hard and I'll be as good as those guys you've got very soon." He was sent to the supply room and given a French horn and an instruction book. "It was the most fascinating book I'd ever seen. I had only gone through the ninth grade and I used to read with my lips moving, but that book made playing the French horn sound like the most glo- rious priviledge anybody could have." Because the instruction book didn't explain how to do the fingering, Ruff asked for help from members of the army band. "I asked a couple of them -- knowing that older folks will always help you if you ask them -- if they'd show me where to put my fingers." He found a friend and a teacher in Pete Lewis, a bari- tone horn player with the band. Lewis showed him "how to find the right finger- ing and I'd mark it in my in- struction book and practice it all day down in the boiler room." One day, the band was re- working Oil tim song at night, particularly a "tricky horn solo that none of the horn players could get right." At the rehearsals, the horn sec- tion kept having problems with the song. Finally, the band leader asked Ruff, "You want to try it, Junior?" He remembers going to get his horn and playing the solo "pretending I was reading it. Of course I had it memorized by then." The band leader was impressed. He promoted Ruff to first horn player. "He put me in that chair and de- rooted all those other guys." Ruff said Lewis' advice was "always tell the story. You can tell the story with one note." Ruff was discharged from the army when he was six- teen. He went to New Haven, Connecticut to live with his sister, who was employed as a maid at Yale University. He got a job cleaning the cages of the animals that were being used for research at Yale's School of Medicine. He began taking French horn lessons from Abe Kniaz, the first horn player of the Columbus Symphony Orches- tra. Kniaz became Ruff's men- tor, teaching him "everything he thought I'd need to know. For well over a year he sched- uled me as his last student on Saturday morning and I'd stay through dinner with him and his wife. He taught me how to speak and pronounce English properly. "He taught me German. He told me what to read. He knew I was deficient in my education and he said, 'While Still A Good Idea For Tax Savings And Security hile other investments have become less attractive in today's economy, a ,raanent Federal IRA is still a good place to put your money. Why? Because " rermanent Federal IRA... ' lays a competitive rate of interest like other savings options ' Allows your interest earnings to remain tax-deferred until time of withdrawal Permits many people to deduct IRA contributions from their income tax lequires none of the fees or commissions you find at investment firms IsUres the safety of your investment Ad for t a anta of IRA tax deductmns contnbutmns ta - hose who can take dv ge " , " " e thro A rfl 15th can still be clmmed on 1991 raceme taxes ugh Wednesday, p .... . lPr b.y any of our convenient offices today for more details on why a Permanent eral IRA is still a good savings idea. FOur Family Banking Center IVANVILLE " NEWBURGH OAKLAND CITY FORT BRANCH JASPER you're working at the craft of playing the horn you've also got to get yore'self ready to at- tend some institution of higher education.'" Kniaz encouraged Ruff to study music at Yale. "It was Abe Kniaz more than anyone else who prepared me for my career," Ruff said in Willie and Dwight. He won a scholarship to Yale and received both a bachelor's degree and a mas- ter's degree. There were eight black undergraduates at Yale during his years there and he recalls being the "fly in the buttermilk," a reference to the WILLIE RUFF "entry of Black people into otherwise white pursuits." When his studies ended, he joined the Lionel Hampton Band. He soon was perform- ing jazz with Dwike Mitchell. The Mitchell-Ruff Duo was first booked as the second act with the bands of Louis Arm- strong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Since its inception, the duo has performed throughout the United States; Mitchell and Ruff'have also taken their music to Russia and China. In 1983, Ruff decided to travel to Venice specifi- cally to "play Gregorian chants on my French horn in St. Mark's cathedral at night when nobody else was there." He chose Venice because it was the "center of the musi- cal world in the 1500s and 1600s . . . mainly because of the remarkable acoustics in St. Mark's." St. Mark's was built with rounded surfaces. Ruff ex- plains that "music hates op- posite walls and 90-degree angles. There is a certain harshness in the accoustics of opposite walls. Music is en- hanced by softened shapes." He received permission to play his French horn in the balconies and in the nave at St. Mark's. InWillie and Dwight, Zissner remembers that night. "He picked up his German American Bank We Make Friends For Life JASPER, INDIANA t I i I I i "Funeral Pre-Planning Since 1940" Miller & Miller 424-9274 3 Buehlers I.G.A. "THE THRIFTY HOUSEWIFE'S SOURCE OF SAVINGS" QUALITY FOODS AND MEATS Also Huntingburg and Oakland City BECHER & KLUESNER FUNERAL HOME Downtown Chapel, 214 E. 7th North Chapel, 33rd Newton French horn and blew one note, a concert C, not particu- larly loud. The note filled the entire church. It was a note of amazing volume and purity, one that seemed to seek out every inch of the basilica and leave no crevice unoccupied. If Ruff had played only that one note his trip would have made his point; the accous- tics were indeed perfetto." Ruff played Gregorian chants, and American spiritu- als, "Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?" and "Go Down Moses." "Wherever he went," Zinsser writes, "the music filled the church; distance didn't attenuate the sound." Today, Ruff continues to perform with Mitchell. The duo make up the longest sur- viving jazz duo in America. He has also been a member of the faculty at Yale since 1971. Willie Ruff will play his French horn, and discuss his trip to St. Mark's Church in Venice, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 at St. Mary's Church at 609 Cherry Street in Evansville. The lecture/performance is open to the public. He will be playing selec- tions from the Gregorian Chant, as well as spirituals and blues. JASPER LUMBER CO. COMPLETE BUILDING SERVICE Ph: 482-1125 RT. 4, JASPER KREMPP LUMBER CO. WHOLESALE BUILDING MATERIAL DIS- TRIBUTION & GENERAL CONTRACTING YARD CONSTRUCTION 482-1961 482-6939