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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




Crotchet

Ray Brown Monty Alexander Russell Malone

Telarc CD-83562

 

 

  1. Django
  2. Fly Me to the Moon
  3. Blues for Junior
  4. Honeysuckle Rose
  5. Compassion
  6. Dexter’s Dex
  7. I Just Can’t See for Looking
  8. One for Hamp
  9. Don’t Go
  10. Look Who’s Here
  11. You Can See

Ray Brown – Bass

Monty Alexander – Piano

Russell Malone – Guitar

This being Ray Brown’s last recording before he died last year, it also contained a Limited Edition Bonus CD giving a retrospective look at some of his other Telarc sessions.

  1. Tin Tin Deo (with Benny Green & Jeff Hamilton)
  2. CRS-CRAFT (as above)
  3. Tanga (with Benny Green & Jeff Hamilton)
  4. En Suite &
  5. Bye Bye Blackbird (with Benny Green & Gregory Hutchinson)
  6. Blue Monk (with John Clayton & Christian McBride)
  7. St Louis Blues (with Ahmad Jamal & Lewis Nash)
  8. Lament (with Geoff Keezer & Karriem Riggins)
  9. Get Happy &
  10. Mysterioso (with John Clayton and Christian McBride)

Elaine Martone, Telarc’s producer who selected these tracks said of Ray Brown, "I had the honour of working with Ray Brown for fourteen years. He taught me so much, not only about jazz, but also about living. His stories lit up our recording sessions, and his humour, charm, grit, artistry and knowledge made my job more like a dream at the highest level. I will miss him sorely. These selections are among my favourites from our work together."

In my opinion Ray Brown is the finest jazz bass player that ever lived, an opinion I share with the vast majority of musicians and fans of the genre. He brought total quality to everything he did and whilst several bass players have come along in recent years with phenomenal technique on the instrument, I feel sure that they would agree that nobody could ever swing a band like Ray Brown. I first noticed him playing with the Oscar Peterson Trio, which had a similar line-up to this record and included Ray Ellis on Guitar.

The trio on disc one works very well, even though there does seem a slight tendency by Russell Malone to rush things occasionally. Things get off to a very good start. Django, which is a John Lewis composition, gets the kind of restrained treatment that the tune deserves. Fly me to the Moon really swings and Ray Brown’s earthy blues, Blues for Junior demonstrate the genius of Monty Alexander’s piano playing and the general cohesion of the trio. The programme selection cannot be faulted, a mixture of standards, jazz standards and original compositions by all three members of the trio. It is amazing how the classic jazz trio, which was established by Nat King Cole of piano, bass and guitar can generate so much swing, without percussion. I found it hard to pick a favourite track because I enjoyed all of them. It was nice to hear Dexter Gordon’s tune again and Honeysuckle Rose really takes off, but the original compositions are equally melodic and interesting. I have thought for some time that Monty Alexander, who is of Jamaican origin would be one of the jazz superstars and his playing on this and other records confirms it. The bass playing is superb throughout, it is sad to think that we shall not have any more albums from this master musician, who has been the top man on his instrument for as long as I can remember. Russell Malone also makes a fine contribution to the album despite my earlier remark; he is an excellent guitarist.

The so called bonus CD kicks off with a spoken intro by Ray Brown to Dizzy Gillespie’s Tin Tin Deo, this features another top pianist Benny Green and has Jeff Hamilton, who is on so many current releases on drums. Ray features on both the intro and in a later chorus, an excellent track. Although this track is over 10 minutes in length the interest level of the improvisations are consistent throughout. Tracks 2 & 3 are from the same trio and equally good. Tracks 4& 5 also feature Benny Green at the keyboard. Track 4 En Suite has a beautifully developed theme statement from the trio and after listening to four tracks, I became convinced that the trio with drums has the cleaner sound, somehow the guitar/keyboard combination can lead to the two chordal instruments getting in each other’s way. Track 5 is a definitive version of Bye Bye Blackbird, which has become an enduring jazz standard. For tracks 6, 9 & 10, Ray is joined by John Clayton and Christian McBride and they start with Ray playing the melody on Blue Monk and an interesting combination of three master bass players, it shouldn’t work, but it does! Track 7 has Ahmed Jamal on piano playing St Louis Blues, there is an excellent intro by Ray before the trio starts to cook along nicely, with the somewhat quirky Ahmed in full flay. Track 8 is with pianist Geoff Keezer, who is another excellent musician playing Lament, it opens with a beautifully played intro by Ray followed by some class piano work from Geoff.

This bonus CD demonstrates the excellence of all the Ray Brown’s work for Telarc; I would be pleased to own all the records these tracks are drawn from.

Telarc are to be congratulated on this release, it is very timely to have the last session of such a great man preserved alongside outstanding examples of his work over the last 8 years of a long and illustrious career.

 

Don Mather

 



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