“Is that Quincy Jones on the next table?”
“No, looks nothing like him.”
“Hang on, I’ll google him…..no, doesn’t look anything like him, but it must be him.”
“It must be!”
This three-way conversation took place by the swimming pool bar on the last day of our holidays, an hour before we were due to leave for the airport. We knew the legendary record producer was staying in Ystad because the previous evening my husband, Dougie, had noticed at dinner that in the reservation book someone had written “Quincy Jones - private reception” and we’d lingered a long time that evening to try and catch a glimpse.
So why was he in Sweden, in Ystad? He was the guest of honour at the Ystad Jazz Festival which just happened to be on while we were there. There was quite a buzz about the town and at our own hotel, Ystad Saltsöjbad, the jazz vibe could be felt quite keenly as some of the concerts were being played there. I had watched some very cool dudes playing cards by the pool the day before and that morning I had stood at the breakfast buffet next to jazz trumpeter Anders Bergcrantz, having picked up a leaflet about him earlier in the week.
So the American sitting at the next table talking passionately to his friend about music? Was he Quincy? I waited until he wandered off to the bar before bravely approaching the friend and asking him. The answer was no, he was, in fact, American jazz drummer, Ronnie Gardiner, who was due to be playing that afternoon, with the Andreas Pettersson Quartet, accompanying singer Deborah Brown.
I felt a little sheepish but when Ronnie returned he smiled at me, put two glasses of juice down on the table and, with a twinkle in his eye, said to his friend,
“Hey, I leave you for five minutes and you’ve got a girl coming over to you. How d’ you do that?”
I explained my mistake and he shrugged it off with a laugh, saying Quincy was taller and generally a bigger guy. He asked me to pull up a chair, invited the boys over too, and, for the next hour, the three of us were completely bowled over by a warm, funny, utterly captivating man.
Ronnie Gardiner has just turned 80 and as a jazz drummer has played with the greatest: Dizzie Gillespie, Benny Carter, Gerry Mulligan and Dexter Gordon. He has lived for many years now in Sweden where he still plays the drums and hosts live jazz in Stockholm.
We talked about his music and he was delighted to hear that our son, Rory, is a drummer too. When he discovered my husband is a doctor, the conversation took a different turn. Ronnie told us all about the work he has been doing since 1980, using the skills needed for drumming to develop a technique to help in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries.
Ronnie realised that when he plays the drums, each arm and leg has to work independently, requiring a large interaction between the brain’s various centres in terms of motor skills, coordination, memory and sense of rhythm. After lots of research, he created a multisensory technique using audio, visual, tactile and kinetic energy with rhythm, music and sound/movement codes. The method has had success in patients with strokes and Parkinson’s disease and also with groups suffering from depression, dementia, autism and dyslexia.
To explain his method – the Ronnie Gardiner Rhythm and Music Method (RGRM-Method) – Ronnie became very animated and started tapping his feet and slapping his hands on the table, whilst shouting out a specific sound for each limb. He had all of us ‘booming’ and ’tishing’, to the bemusement of everyone else around the pool. Naturally, Rory, as a drummer, picked up the routine very quickly, whereas Dougie and I had to concentrate very hard to pick up the pattern.
I noticed he had some very dapper shoes on his feet – one blue and one red. He explained that he wears a red and blue costume when he is teaching, each half of his body a different colour. He had to buy two pairs of shoes, one pair blue and one red, in order to have the correct pair for his work. The shoes on his feet that day were the other halves of his working pair.
We learned a lot from Ronnie that afternoon. He recounted the story of a woman who, following a stroke, had one wish: to be able to dance again. Using the RGRM Method, Ronnie was able to stimulate her brain to send the right signals to her limbs so that, at a big family gathering some time later, her husband held her close and she danced.
Research on the RGRM method has taken place at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. There seems to be no doubt that this programme can really benefit patients but it needs to have more testing worldwide if it is to be used as an effective technique outside Sweden itself. Just read the positive accounts of doctors and patients here.
At 80 years of age, Ronnie Gardiner is an inspiration. As he left us to go and practise for his concert that afternoon and as we drove off towards the airport, as a family we were left quite breathless with emotion.
One young man in particular had discovered a new hero.