Winnipegger Ron Paley never thought his love for music would lead him across North America and to one of the most influential musical artists of the 20th century.
“My father started teaching me accordion when I was seven, I added piano and electric bass and went on from there to play those instruments,” said Paley.
He started performing at small gigs in the city and studied at the University of Manitoba.
Paley’s love for jazz took him to the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he was noticed by American jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich.
“I got a call to go on the road with the Buddy Rich Big Band… and after that I played with Woody Herman’s Big Band,” said Paley.
But his career was just getting started. Paley’s musical talent was noticed by Frank Sinatra who hired Woody Herman’s band to play with him.
“He had acoustic bass in his rhythm section and I was playing electric bass,” said Paley. “He wanted electric bass for one song every night so I played that song every night.”
“The rest of the time I got to sit there from the middle of the orchestra and listen to him and watch him,” said Paley. “I learned so much from that from seeing him and hearing him.”
Paley eventually returned to Winnipeg to form the Ron Paley Big Band in 1976 and has toured across Canada and America in the last 40 years performing.
Starting February 17, his band will play jazz arrangements of songs for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of A Cinderella Story at Centennial Concert Hall.
“Working with the dancers has been an unbelievable experience,” “I saw every bit of choreography and it was an amazing thing to see it grow.”
When asked what motivates him to keep touring and taking risks he said, “a true love for music and a love of learning.”