Bob Ransom: Remembering A Local Jazz Legend

Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Jazz fans and music lovers around Hampton Roads are mourning the loss of a local legend.

Bob Ransom, a former Air Force band soloist, local bandleader, and college professor, died last week.

“He was just a phenomenal trumpet player,” says singer and recording artist, Karla Crump.

Her memories go back to her childhood during the ’60s and ’70s at CarverMemorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News. 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 for my father(the director) performed Handel’s Messiah. Bob was there. Bob played whenever we could get him because he was definitely in demand.”

Ransom was in demand at Hampton University.

“He headed up the sound engineering program here,” says WHOV-FM general manager Jay Lang.

Ransom joined Hampton in 1980, working as an assistant director of bands, coordinating jazz studies, and directing the university’s jazz ensemble, during his 16 years at H.U.

Students and professional musicians respected Ransom’s talent.
 
“I met Bob in 1981 in a gifted program at Thomas Nelson Community College,” says Martin Blockson, an accomplished saxophonist and recording artist. “The tone that came outta that horn, it spoke to me.”

Ransom may have perfected that tone while serving in the military for 21 years. 

“He was a retired Air Force soloist,” says Lang, adding, military musicians usually get instant respect from other professional artists.
 
“He was always so kind with me,” says WHRV-FM’s Jae Sinnett, who’s also a professional drummer, band leader.
 
“Even when I would play something he didn’t like, he’d be like ‘Yeah, man, that’s a little too out there  for me.’ He would say ‘but, then, you did this.’ If he didn’t like something, he would always counter it with something that he did. And that’s the sign of a great educator.”

One of Ransom’s former H.U. students from the ’90s, Duane Smith, has a special memento from him.
 
“He gave me one of his trumpets.” Duane Smith, who has since gone on to perform in his own band, stayed in touch with his former mentor.

“We were supposed to have lunch on Friday(April 30th) and I was waiting. He never came. So, you know, I love him. It’s been hard, but um, 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 not yet been announced. Duane Smith and other musicians hope to soon honor his memory, with a concert.

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