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Lyle Ritz Obituary - Jazz Ukulele player

Last week the world lost one of the truly pioneering ukulele players - Lyle Ritz. He was predominantly a Jazz Ukulele player - a phrase you don't often hear ! In fact its a phrase that makes me think of Ron Burgendy in Anchor Man.

In the 1950's he released two amazing jazz ukulele albums - How about Uke ? and 50th State Jazz. Neither sold very well - but then the best records never do. They became very popular in the home of the uke - Hawaii.

Lyle's playing is pretty unique. Its all based on 7th and 9th chords (not unusual in jazz). But so much more than that most of his melodies are based on chords and rather than playing single notes for a melody, he would play the whole chord as well. . This means a very rapid movement between chords which is tricky when they are all 7ths and 9ths . He rarely plays a chord for more than two beats. He was an expert in taking tricky chords and making then trickier ! Try taking a tricky F9 shape (shown below 2 3 3 3 ) and then add a single D note by placing your pinky at the 5th fret of the A string and you are heading in Lyle's direction.

Anyway, what a sad loss, but what a wonderful life and contribution to the world of the ukulele. I truly hope his influence continues to shine.

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