Charles “Doc” Rutherford

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Charles “Doc” Rutherford is probably best known for having organized the Orange Coast Jazz Festival held each year between 1969 and 1986. But his most lasting contribution to the jazz world undoubtedly has been as an educator. “He was very important to my musical development,” says Eric Marienthal. “He even helped me find the instruments that I needed when I was first out of high school,” Marienthal recalls. “Through him I met many of the musicians, like Don Menza and Louie Bellson, who helped me with my professional career. If it wasn’t for him, there probably wouldn’t be a program at OCC.”

Brandon Fields, former saxophonist for the Rippingtons, says the chance to play in Rutherford’s ensembles was critical to his musical development. “There were a lot of great players involved, and I was exposed to a higher level of music than what I was used to.” Others who have participated in Rutherford’s Orange Coast jazz ensembles–such as composer, saxophonist, big-band leader and fellow instructor Tom Kubis–are just as complimentary. “He’s literally responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of great musical careers over the years,” Kubis says. “He always pushed the right thing at the right time, like making the saxophone players pick up the flute and clarinet. I remember the day he brought in a Thad Jones recording and made us sit down and listen to it, saying this is the way things are going to be from now on.”

“He was the first guy to say to me, ‘You write and we’ll play whatever you write,’ which gave us an opportunity to hear what we were actually doing. If he knew you could do something, he was on you all the time. He pushed hard but got good results.”