Bob Ransom: Remembering a Local Jazz Legend
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Jazz and music fans around Hampton Roads mourn the loss of a local legend.
Bob Ransom, former Air Force group soloist, local conductor and university professor, died last week.
“He was just a phenomenal trumpeter,” says singer and recording artist Karla Crump.
Her memories go back to her childhood in the 60s and 70s at Newport News’ CarverMemorial Presbyterian Church. Crump sang in the choir. And, during the Christmas season, Ransom was the guest soloist for a very special concert.
“Every year, the William F. Crump choir, named after my father (the director) performed Handel’s Messiah. Bob was there. Bob played whenever we could get him because he was definitely in demand.
The ransom was demanded at Hampton University.
“He led the sound engineering program here,” says Jay Lang, CEO of WHOV-FM.
Ransom joined Hampton in 1980, working as an assistant group manager, coordinating jazz studies and leading the university’s jazz ensemble, during his 16 years at HU
Students and professional musicians respected Ransom’s talent.
“I met Bob in 1981 as part of a gifted program at Thomas Nelson Community College,” says Martin Blockson, an accomplished saxophonist and recording artist. “The tone that came out of that horn spoke to me.
Ransom may have perfected this tone while serving in the military for 21 years.
“He was a retired Air Force soloist,” Lang says, adding that military musicians usually get instant respect from other professional performers.
“He’s always been so nice to me,” says Jae Sinnett of WHRV-FM, who is also a professional drummer, band leader.
“Even when I was playing something he didn’t like, he was like, ‘Yeah, man, that’s a little too much out for me.’ He said “but, then, you did that”. If he didn’t like something, he would always contradict it with something he did. And this is the sign of a great educator.
One of Ransom’s former HU students from the 90s, Duane Smith, has a special memory from him.
“He gave me one of his trumpets. Duane Smith, who has since continued to perform in his own group, has kept in touch with his former mentor.
“We were due for lunch on Friday (April 30) and I was waiting. He never came. So, you know, I love him. It’s been tough, but uh, I’m here to celebrate his legacy.
Bob Ransom, who also taught at William and Mary College, was 88 years old. His wife, Rose, died in 2019 after 67 years of marriage.
Funeral services have yet to be announced. Duane Smith and other musicians hope to honor his memory soon with a concert.