Steady work is a coveted and rare prize among many jazz musicians. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston visits a force in the local jazz scene who never had a problem getting gigs. Jazz drummer Charlie Rice has been keeping the beat for more than 70 years and counting. In April, 2012 the City of Philadelphia recognized Rice as a Jazz Appreciation Month honoree.
Rice was a constant presence when jazz clubs dotted the landscape. His life is a chronicle of the many bands and performers with whom he's played, close to home and far away: Red Garland, Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge, Louie Jordan's band. He toured the south with blues singer and saxophonist Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's band at a time when black and white audience members were separated. In the '60s, Rice traveled across the United States and to Europe with Chet Baker's band.
Still performing, Rice was on stage in December 2015 at a Jazz Bridge concert at the Collingswood Community Center in Collingswood, New Jersey. In early March, he told Meridee that if his health holds out, a repeat gig is a possibility. Charlie Rice is a one-of-a-kind presence in the area's jazz legacy.