To even merely mention all of Ray Brown's accomplishments in the music world would take several pages. It would have to begin with him being influenced by Duke Ellington's amazing bassist Jimmy Blanton, through the bebop years, all the groups he led and coled on the West Coast to his work helping talented musicians be heard (singer Ernestine Anderson quickly comes to mind). He had amazing technique, great intonation and a beautiful sound. His sense of swing feel made him one of the most in demand sidemen of all time. For all these reasons and more, there will be a big tribute to Ray Brown at the Blue Note this month.
The Oscar Peterson Trio with Brown and Ed Thigpen (drums) is considered one of the best piano trios in all of jazz. The Final Concerts is put together from performances from 1965 Copenhagen and 1964 London and starts with Brown playing the melody to "Younger Than Springtime and when the band moves into Oscar Peterson's solo, you hear why the rhythm team of Brown and Thigpen are legendary; the swing feel is deep - serious and fun, bouncy and rock solid. "Autumn Leaves is also seriously swinging. This trio also has an amazing sense of dynamics; many of these tracks demonstrate how softly the musicians could play and that some of the sonic benefits of that approach are that Thigpen could drive the band with just brushes and Brown didn't have to fight to be heard. The sound on the 1964 concert is a little on the low-fidelity side, however the performances rise way above any less-than-perfect recording technique. There are 17 tracks on this CD and a lot of great music. Highlights include performances of "Misty , "Waltz for Debbie and Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant .
The Three, recorded in 1975, features three West Coast giants: Joe Sample (piano), Shelly Manne (drums) and again, Brown. Sample has the ear of an arranger and is maybe more of a groove player than the over-the-top virtuoso player that Peterson is (though his runs after the bass solo on Oliver Nelson's "Yearnin' are pretty amazing). On "Yearnin' , Sample begins with the famous riff from "Stolen Moments before launching into this swinging, gospel-influenced blues. Brown's solo displays his ability to play anything from slow, glissando tinged Chicago blues guitar lines to a fleet line that you thought only a saxophone or piano could play, all in the service of the total group sound. Indeed Brown is featured first on "Satin Doll a performance of a piece that makes you rethink the tune from its most common context: your grandma's second wedding dance. Speaking of context, the idea of this recording was to get these three masters together in 1975 and just record enough for an LP direct to vinyl and eventually 6 tracks were released. Now with the CD the original 6 tracks are included plus an alternate take of each of the original 6 tunes. Perhaps a little light on concept, The Three is full of great playing from these three.
Tracks and Personnel
The Final Concerts
Tracks: Younger Than Spring Time; Misty; Django; The Smudge; Autumn Leaves; Moanin'; Lovers Promenade; Children's Tune; Hallelujah Time; Con Alma; Waltz For Debbie; Cubano Chant; Yours Is My Heart Alone; Place St. Henri; My One And Only Love; Nightingale; Reunion Blues.
Personnel: Ray Brown: bass; Oscar Peterson: piano; Ed Thigpen: drums.
Tracks: Yearnin'; On Green Dolphin Street; Satin Doll; Manha Do Carnaval; 'Round About Midnight; Funky Blues; Yearnin'(alternate take); On Green Dolphin Street (alternate take); Satin Doll (alternate take); Manha Do Carnaval (alternate take); 'Round About Midnight (alternate take); Funky Blues (alternate take).
Personnel: Ray Brown: bass; Joe Sample: piano; Shelly Manne: drums.