Perhaps one of the reasons for the decline in jazz as a popular music is that the listening experience should be live. Its life force rarely transfers itself through the recording process. In the studio, where actions are inscribed in permanence, artists require take after take to “make it perfect.” But jazz isn’t about perfect, or permanence for that matter. Live jazz offers the opportunity for risks and rewards, interaction, and inspiration. Once and a while, a recorded live date accurately captures the magic of the live moment. This date recorded live in September 1999 at a coffeehouse does, and Ray Brown’s Trio is certainly good till the last drop.
Bassist Ray Brown was brought up in the age of Bebop, working with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell. He was the timekeeper of choice for Oscar Peterson’s famed trio and since has led his own bands recording fine discs for Telarc. His trio finds Geoff Keezer taking over the piano seat long held by Benny Green. Where Green was a direct disciple of Oscar Peterson, Keezer sounds as if influenced by equal parts Duke Ellington, Ahmad Jamal, and Tommy Flanagan. Drummer Karriem Riggins joined Brown on The Very Tall Band recording with Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson.
Brown’s mission to keep the flame of jazz burning is admirable. Although he is in his mid-seventies, his live dates like this one are anything but de-caf. The disc opens with “Up There” (as in tempo) and barely lets up, except for ballads. He takes Ellington’s “Love You Madly” on solo with a thump-thump intro into a swinging melody. Brown also displays his gutbucket blues roots on “Starbucks Blues,” played with Keezer strumming the insides of his piano. Keezer then takes the blues over for a two-handed moving conclusion. With Riggins, the band has the thrills of the old Peterson days, but the focus is spread more evenly between the parts. I continue to be impressed by Keezer’s touch. On his solo dates he has ventured into post-bop constructions with mixed results. His strengths are definitely swing and a contrasting ability to fashion thoughtful ballads. Just thirty years old, he has plenty of time to develop his many talents. The space he is given in Brown’s trio should yield valuable results.
The trio absolutely smokes through Ellington and Tadd Dameron. They fashion a Caribbean feel on “Brown Bossa” and remember the saxophonist Lester Young on “Lester Leaps In.” The appreciative crowd adds positive energy to what is already a near perfect live date.
Track Listing: Up There; When I Fall In Love; Brown Bossa; Our Delight; Lament; Mainstem; Love You Madly; Caravan; This House Is Empty Now/I Should Care; Lester Leaps In; Starbucks Blues.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.