The double bassist and hornist was 92 years old


Willie Ruff © Vincent Oneppo

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American double bassist and hornist Willie Ruff died on 24 December 2023, at the age of 92 years old. Born in Alabama in 1931, Ruff enlisted in an army band at the age of 14 – having lied about his age – and later studied at the Yale School of Music, obtaining a bachelor of music degree and a master of music degree.

Together with pianist Ivory ‘Dwike’ Mitchell, Ruff performed as half of the Mitchell-Ruff duo, playing as the opening act for notable performers including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Count Basie.

In 1971, Ruff became a professor at the Yale School of Music, serving until his retirement in 2017. In 1972 he founded the Duke Ellington Fellowship at the school, which received the Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award in 2000.

Ruff was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1994, and was awarded the Sanford Medal in 2013, the highest honour from the Yale Schol of Music.

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