Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Instrumental Jazz from the famous singer, Ray Charles

Everybody knows Ray Charles as a brilliant R&B singer and pianist. He had numerous #1 hits, including “Georgia On My Mind” (now the Georgia state song) and “Hit the Road Jack.” His 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, won him a Grammy and has been included on several Greatest Albums of All Time lists.

He also appeared in The Blues Brothers movie, hosted Saturday Night Live, and was hilarious on The Super Dave Osbourne Show as Dave’s chauffeur. His voice, look, and style are still iconic and time has not diminished the impact of his genius.

You know who he reminds me of? Jaimie Foxx

You know who he reminds me of? Jaimie Foxx

As familiar as we all are with his work in Country and Western, Blues, and R&B, you may not be familiar with his fantastic work in instrumental Jazz. Today I want to take you back to 1957 and his lesser known second album, The Great Ray Charles.  I found this in my parents’ record collection and was delighted when I played it. It was fresh and vital but didn’t sound anything like the Ray Charles I knew.

In 1956, Jazz was facing new competition from Rock n’ Roll and television. Jazz audiences were shrinking even as artists such as Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane were at the height of their powers. Ray had been releasing singles for years through Atlantic Records and had already had 14 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B chart. He was famous as a singer, but that year he gathered an ensemble of alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, trumpets, bass, and drums and put out some unbelievably smooth improvisational Jazz.

The entire disc is good from end to end, but here are my four favorites that will give you a flavor for what they were doing.

  • Dawn Ray – Not all the songs on this disc highlight Ray’s piano work, but this does. Ray’s fingers are light and he unerringly picks out great melodies and arpeggios that are light and pleasing.
  • The Ray – Here Ray sits back and lets the horns do the heavy lifting but he is constantly back there adding color and a great solo in the middle of the piece.
  • Joy Ride – This is a more up-tempo piece where piano, alto sax, and muted trumpet take turns trading licks. It’s a rare Jazz song that makes me want to get up and dance rather than sit and listen, but this one does.  I would have loved to be in a Jazz hall when they played this.
  • Doodlin’ – Relaxed stand up bass, brushed snare, and soft horns back up Ray as he lays down a cool groove.

Incidentally, not all of these tracks were on the original release. It was all recorded in 1956, but only about half the tracks were released in 1957. The rest were released in 1961 on The Genius After Hours. The 1990 reissue of this disc included most the tracks from both releases.



May 14, 2009 - Posted by | Jazz

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