May 25, 2024

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CD review: Ronnie Cuber – Four 2019: Video, CD cover

Ronnie Cuber is without question one of the greatest baritone saxohonists of all time. Composer/arranger and leader of his own groups that goes back to 1959.

Ronald Edward Cuber was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York on Christmas Day. While a teenager he played at the 1959 New Port jazz Festival in Marshall Brown’s Newport Youth Band and recorded several albums with the band. In fact, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Brown, because prior to that time Cuber had been concentrating on the tenor saxophone but he had a tenor player and offered Ronnie the baritone chair. George Wein and Gerry Mulligan went to Ponty’s in New York and bought him his first baritone the next day.

By 1962 he had recorded with Slide Hampton, then went on to work and record with Maynard Ferguson’s band from 1963-65. The following year Ronnie took the jazz world by storm as part of the orginal George Benson Quartet in a swinging hard bop quartet driven by the mighty Hammond B3 organ of Lonnie Smith. The band recorded 4 memorable albums for John Hammond at Columbia Records. After a stint with Lionel Hampton and filling the coveted baritone chair on Woody Herman’s Band, Cuber augmented his New York session work by performing and recording with the the great Latin bands of Eddie Palmeri, Charlie Palmeri, Mario Bausa and Mongo Santamaria. Simultaneous to his early tenue with Palmeri, Ronnie was playing alongside and recording with R&B legend King Curtis while and backing Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

After stints with Lionel Hampton in 1968, Woody Herman’s Orchestra in 1969 and as a freelancer he recorded a series of fine albums both as leader and as a sideman for Xanadu. Ronnie performed with Lee Konitz’s Nonet from 1977 to 1979 every monday night in New York City and recorded recorded with the Nonet. In the mid 1980’s Ronnie recorded for Projazz in both straight-ahead, latin & R&B settings and in the early 1990’s he headed dates for Fresh Sound, Steeplechase and Milestones.

In the late 70’s he became first call Baritone player on the recording scene in New York City and continued to record with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Eddie Palmeri, Andy & Jerry Gonzalez, vibist Bobby Paunetto and his own albums on Xanadu. In the 90’s he recorded three projects for Steeplechase and Fresh Sound records.

Cuber has become increasingly in demand as a clinician and guest artist at university and college music programs around the world. Ronnie’s solo performances, composing and arranging artistry and experience in jazz, R&B, funk and Latin music has just taken his career to the next level when he performed for the 5th time in 10 years with the Metropole Orchestra of Holland. He continually draws rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences, whether he appears as leader, with the Mingus Big Band or his labor of love, The Baritone Saxophone Band. His latest project is a very much in demand quartet with organist Lonnie Smith, with whom he has a history that goes back to the 1960’s George Benson Quartet.

Ronnie who’d developed a reputation as a soul-jazz man, established himself as a fiery Latin-jazz soloist and eventually earned the kudos as the leading hard-bop stylist among the baritone saxists of his generation. After recording more than 2000 projects; an exciting amalgam of hard bop, soul, R&B and Latin his playing sounds stronger than ever and is instantly recognizable.


1. Battery Blues (4:50)
2. Sidewinder (7:24)
3. Motivation (5:29)
4. Tenderly (9:18)
5. Just Friends (6:56)
6. Bluesette (6:14)
7. Coming Home Baby (5:24)
8. How High the Moon (6:02)
9. Sugar (8:49)
10. Four (6:16)

Ronnie Cuber – baritone saxophone
Ed Cherry – guitar
Brian Charette – Hammond B3
Adam Nussbaum – drums

Image result for Ronnie Cuber - Four

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