Flutist Ali Ryerson is the rare instrumentalist that has found success in both the classical and jazz world. The Sacred Heart University flute teacher performs this weekend in Waterbury.
Ryerson was born in New York City, and grew up in a house of jazz enthusiasts. Her older brothers played the trumpet, but her mother discouraged her from taking up the instrument. In a 2006 interview she said she doesn’t remember why the flute became her second choice, but she remembers taking to the instrument almost immediately.
Surprisingly, her earliest musical influences weren’t flute players, but other instrumentalists from her siblings’ extensive jazz record collection.
“My early influences musically were much more jazz trumpet players and piano players - Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Art Farmer,” Ryerson said.
Her father, Art Ryerson was a jazz guitarist who later became an in-demand studio musician, lending his guitar skills on recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Sarah Vaughn, as well as early rock and rollers Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.
Like her father, Ali Ryerson plays music from many genres, but she says jazz is her first musical love.
“Even though I studied classical, and have worked quite a bit in the classical field,” she said, “I always kind of gravitated towards jazz and the whole jazz community.”
It is in the jazz world that Ali Ryerson has truly made her mark as a player, teacher, and composer. Ryerson has recorded nearly two dozen albums. One of her latest albums, "Game Changer" features the Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band, an ensemble comprised almost entirely of some of the best jazz flute players in the world. “Game Changer” stayed in the top ten of the U.S. jazz charts for six straight weeks.
Ryerson got her music degree at The University of Hartford's Hartt School, and has performed with the jazz greats like Kenny Barron, Stephane Grappelli, and Roy Haynes, as well as legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
Ali Ryerson performs Friday night at the Waterbury Palace's Poli Club.