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Ray Charles has been spared the anemic tribute efforts others have had to endure. With the recent release of Maceo Parker's Roots and Grooves, and now the Eric Byrd Trio's Brother Ray, we are treated to two very fine tribute recordings that stand firmly on their own creative feet. Like Parker, pianist/vocalist Byrd is a superb Charles interpreter. Where Parker has an intensely personal vocal style well-suited to Charles' music, Byrd has a cognac-smooth delivery.
In conventional fashion, Byrd introduces the disc with an upbeat "Let the Good Times Roll," employing his four-horn section and making the resulting octet swing like a big band. Byrd expands this approach to include "I've Got News for You" and "Get on the Right Track Baby." Byrd recreates the Charles/Betty Carter duet with Lea Gilmore on "Baby It's Cold Outside," as bassist Bhagwan Khalsa inserts a brief solo before the warm closing choruses.
Byrd proves a capable balladeer on "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'" and "You Don't Know Me." His piano style is two-fisted and effective. Byrd is not flashy, but proficient in a way that does not tax the jazz novice. Byrd is also quite the blues player, betraying hints of the late Gene Harris on "I Want a Little Girl." Brother Ray is an enjoyable tribute to the genius of the title. I almost hope that the tributes to Ray Charles stop here.
Track Listing: Let the Good Times Roll; Them That Got; Come Rain or Come Shine; I've Got News for You; Get on the Right Track Baby; Baby It
Personnel: Eric Byrd: piano, vocals; Bhagwan Khalsa: bass; Alphonso Young, Jr.: drums; Brad Clements: trumpet; Lyle Link: alto saxophone; Paul Carr: tenor saxophone; Chris Watling: baritone saxophone; Lea Gilmore: vocals; Frank McCreary: vocals.