Ray Brown with:
Monty Alexander, Benny Green, Geoffrey Keezer – Piano
John Clayton, Christian McBride – Bass
Gregory Hutchinson, Lewis Nash – Drums.
When bass giant Ray Brown passed away last
summer at age 75; he left an enormous gap in the jazz world.
Most people had regarded him as the number one bass player in
jazz since the 1950’s and that’s an awful long time to be the
top man! Fortunately he has left us a vast legacy of his recordings
so it will be many years before he is forgotten. To be a member
of his trio brought instant fame, hence the number of personnel
changes over the years. As soon as he thought you were good
enough to be part of his band, the other offers followed. This
was to be the last recording with brilliant pianist Geoffrey
Keezer, because he was leaving, but sadly it was the last for
Ray Brown had a sound on the bass like no one
else and he could drive along a rhythm section in a way many
imitated, but no one played as well. The wonderful tone and
technique came from incredible natural ability and solid practice.
A drummer I know was at the Coventry Theatre when Ray Brown
was playing bass for singer Nellie Lutcher. At the time Ray
used to practice for at least four hours every day, as well
as working twice nightly! The story gives an insight into the
man and helps to explain his amazing longevity as top man.
Disc One is everything you would expect from
a Ray Brown Trio beautifully played standards, original compositions
by Ray and tunes from other top jazz musicians. Fried Pies by
Wes Montgomery is an example of the latter. The interesting
and melodic Ray Brown Suite comes in three movements, he also
wrote Lined With a Groove and Hello Girls. He is also responsible
for all the arrangements. Geoffrey Keezer has to be one of the
finest pianists on today’s jazz scene and although I have not
heard Karriem Riggins before, I am mightily impressed.
Disc 2 consists of previously unissued tracks
from Ray’s earlier recordings. FSR certainly gets things off
to a good start in the company of Benny Green and Gregory Hutchinson.
Likewise with Stardust in the same company, it makes you wonder
why these tracks were not on the records the company originally
released. The only explanation I can think of is that with musicians
of this quality, there is an over sufficiency of riches from
each session and something has to be left out. Ray’s work in
both the theme statement and improvisations on Stardust is outstanding,
he is featured throughout. Evidence, Much In Common, Three by
Four and Down By the Riverside feature the amazing three bass
trio with John Clayton and Christian McBride. On the face of
it three bass players does not sound the most exciting combination,
but believe me it works! The Nearness of you has Geoffrey Keezer
back at the keyboard and is as eloquent as you would expect
from listening to disc 1.
If you have bought Ray Brown records before,
you’ll know the high quality of the product already, if you
haven’t get this one, it’s a wonderful reminder of probably
the best jazz bass player ever.