The very great Scottish bassist Ron Mathewson passed away shortly before midnight yesterday 3 December 2020. He had been admitted to hospital with Covid in mid-November.
Ron Mathewson at Ronnie Scott’s Club in 1989. Photo by Brian O’Connor – Images of Jazz
Dave Holland writes: The way Ron Mathewson played the bass was an inspiration to me and during the time that I lived in London I heard him play on countless occasions.
I was a couple of years younger than Ron and learned so much from watching and listening to him play. In addition to a beautiful sound and a great rhythmic feel on the instrument he had such an inventive way of approaching the supportive role of the bass. His playing was built on the foundations laid down by the masters of the instrument but he was always exploring and reaching for new ideas and his soloing could range from being beautifully melodic to fearlessly explosive. Seeing him play made you aware of what was possible on the instrument.
His contribution to music will be remembered and the stories and anecdotes about him will be spoken of and repeated for years to come.
Stan Sulzmann: He played fantastically. Anyone that worked with Ron Mathewson knew just how good he was: there were those classic years at Ronnie’s when he would do two and three week engagements with Joe Henderson, John Taylor, Tony Oxley. …Those were legendary gigs with Ron playing at his very best. That’s what Ron was about: a real Jjazz player with great character and an individual voice, playing and living in the moment !
I was privileged to have shared ten great years with my quartet with Ron and John Taylor and Tony Levin. We made a record for Mosaic ‘On Loan With Gratitude’ and represented the BBC for the EBU in Molde in Norway. For all his personal and sometimes testing idiosyncrasies we had so much fun.
There are countless great memories and stories…. Ron’s unorthodox technique, seeing his left hand moving so elegantly on the neck of the bass was a joy to watch whilst providing such wonderful propulsive and joyous ‘jazz’ pulse. Ron could set the music alight ! He had that incredible feeling for time in a similar way as Ron Carter, Nils Henning Orsted Peterson, Ray Brown, Sam Jones. He was the one who had it all with such an intuitive and unrestrained talent.
Liam Noble:He was one of the most phenomenal bass players in the music’s history. I was fortunate to play with him in a standards quartet led by John Stevens and featuring Anita Wardell. There are lots of stories. But the main thing for me was how Ron’s bass playing kind of exploded under the band, yet followed every harmonic nuance and suggested many too. I also played with him on trios with Spike Wells and Tony Levin amongst others….this generation of British jazz musicians had a particular energy that was highly disciplined yet completely bat shit crazy at the same time. Free improvisation and jazz were not separate when you were on the stand with these players: you had to invent, all the time. I learnt a lot. Thank you Ron for your incredible musicianship. Simon Spillett has told Ron Mathewson’s story in a detailed obituary, and written eloquently of his “formidable musical gift” and his “fearlessness”On his Facebook page.
Ron Mathewson. Born Lerwick, Shetland Isles, Scotland, 19 February 1944. Died London 3 December 2020.