Willie Ruff and pianist Dwike Mitchell will always be best-known for their work as the Mitchell-Ruff Duo. Ruff was well educated, earning a Masters of Music from Yale University in 1954. He had worked a bit with Benny Goodman while still at Yale and after his graduation he had an on-and-off association with Lionel Hampton. Dwike Mitchell, who Ruff had met back in 1947, was Hampton's pianist and soon they formed their successful duo. Ruff, in addition to bass, doubled on French horn which he had learned while in the Army in the late 1940's. In addition to their many concerts and recordings, the Mitchell-Ruff Duo made history in 1959 when they became the first Western jazz musicians to perform in the Soviet Union since World War II; in 1981 the duo would play in China. Ruff, a professor of music at Yale, has remained active as a bassist, a French horn player and an important educator up to the present time. His extensive memoirs (1991's A Call to Assembly) are well worth reading. In addition to his many recordings with Dwike Mitchell (as a duo, in a trio and with Dizzy Gillespie), Ruff recorded as a leader for Columbia (1967-68) and as an unaccompanied French horn player (1983).
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group