Organizing sound into music is what Ricky Sweum has been doing since childhood. He is a professional musician specializing in live performance and studio production. Ricky currently lives in California's Bay Area and tours the world as a saxophonist and band leader for the US Air Force Band. He has performed in places ranging from New York City's Carnegie Hall to remote Alaskan villages only accessible by airplane. Ricky holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Production from Berklee College of Music, and he has recorded six CDs under his name along with appearing on dozens of commercial releases. He is the co-owner of Ninjazz Records, an independent jazz label featuring top creative musicians from the West Coast. Ricky is an official endorsing artist of P. Mauriat saxophones.
Ricky grew up in Eugene, Oregon. As a child, he rallied local kids and formed jam sessions while recording everything onto his dad’s reel-to-reel sound-on-sound machine. He built his own synthesizers using parts from Radio Shack, and he used his mom’s kitchen pots and pan as drum sets. In 1988, he began studying saxophone. In 1992, he won a position in the McDonald’s All American Jazz Band under the direction of Henry Mancini, which performed for the Grammy Celebration Week in New York City and appeared on the Grammy telecast.
After high school, he spent a year living in Portland, Oregon while attending Mt. Hood Community College and performing regularly with Ron Steen, Dick Berk, and Thara Memory. In 1993, Ricky won the Yamaha Young Performing Artist award. From 1993-95, Ricky attended William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, then he moved to New York City. During his time in New York, he was a member of the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop, performed at a myriad of local venues, toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, toured with the Broadway Show, “Sound of Music” featuring Marie Osmond, recorded multiple CDs, earned a fourth degree black belt in Ninjutsu under Masaaki Hatsumi, and lived for many weeks in the woods with nature awareness teacher, Tom Brown Jr.
In 2003, Ricky won a position as a saxophonist for the United States Air Force Band in San Antonio, Texas. In Texas, Ricky was an original member of Gerry Gibbs’ Thrasher Big Band. In 2005, Ricky won an audition for the US Air Force Academy premier band in Colorado Springs, Colorado. With the Air Force Academy Band, Ricky performance highlights include Carnegie Hall, Monterey Jazz Festival, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and recording with Sammy Nestico. Also in Colorado, Ricky joined the Chie Imaizumi Jazz Orchestra, and he formed a jazz quartet that recorded for Origin Records. From 2007-11, Ricky was the the jazz director at Colorado College. In 2010, Ricky was a featured artist in the Random House book, “The New Face of Jazz: An Intimate Look at Today’s Living Legends and the Artists of Tomorrow.” Around this time, Ricky’s CDs began receiving accolades from critics and industry peers, and his music placed on the US top 100 JazzWeek and CMJ jazz radio charts.
In 2011, Ricky joined with his childhood musical buddy, Tim Willcox, and created NINJAZZ Records (an independent jazz record label). Also in 2011, Ricky moved to Anchorage, Alaska to play saxophone and run the jazz band for the US Air Force Band of the Pacific. In Alaska, Ricky performed in the Arctic Circle for Native Alaskan villages and headlined the Sitka Jazz Festival. In 2012, Ricky’s music was licensed to appear as an accompanying CD to Aereostella Italian publishing company’s book, “appunti da New York.”
In 2012, Ricky transferred to the Air Force Band in Tokyo, Japan. Along with touring Japan, he also toured Australia, Thailand, and Indonesia. While in Japan, Ricky learned to converse poorly in Japanese and to work pretty well in the digital audio workstation, Ableton Live. His audio engineering productions for various clients have been released on iTunes and been used in Tokyo Theaters.
Ricky moved to California in 2018 and works for the Air Force Band of the Golden West. He leads the 18-piece jazz band throughout the western United States.
Ricky wouldn't be who he is today without the guidance of many excellent music teachers. Here's an incomplete list in no particular order: Barry Deister, Steve Owen, Tom Gadbois, Gary Smulyan, Rick Margitza, Richard Tabnik, Charlie Banacos, Doug Scheuerell, Hal Crook, Huw Lloyd, Harvey Pittel, Michael Melinger, Joe Ingram, Carl Woideck, and Robyn Steiner Boling. Thank you for your guidance!
“Streaming hypnotic lines together one by one, he tells the story of a soul who must sing and does so with unadulterated beauty and intelligence”
— Cicily Janus, author, New Face of Jazz
“Ricky plays with one foot rooted in the tradition and one looking to the future. He is a wonderfully creative saxophonist and prolific composer.”
— Gary Smulyan
“Ricky is a burning tenor player with technique and ideas to spare...well worth checking out!”
— David Liebman
“Ricky plays with a maturity and control of his instrument that is a real pleasure to listen to. His sound commands your attention.”
— Bill Evans (saxophonist)
“Ricky Sweum is an excellent saxophonist...beautiful and musical...a pleasure for my ears.”
— James Moody
“...solos are inventive and exciting.”
— Marian McPartland