Ray Brown, legendary jazz bassist and founder of the 1940's bebop quintet of Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker, opened the 2002 Pabst Theater's 10th Hal Leonard Jazz Series in Milwaukee, February 16. Over 1,200 jazz patrons were mesmerized as Brown and his trio lay about two hours of jazz standards and classics inside the ornamental theater. Karriem Riggins, 26, kept wonderful time on the drum kit smoothly alternating between popping rim shots, brushes and sticks. The balancing third of the jazz trio, pianist Larry Fuller, 36, connected the melodies with his flurrying fingers, making precision strikes on the keys look effortlessly. Ray Brown, 75, was his self once more despite being off his feet for several months from knee surgery. Holding his aged, 6-foot plus double bass nearly as tall as Brown, he's back on his feet again for nearly two hours, and his technique is quite remarkable. He's performing strong, gentle rounded tones, sometimes playing intensely and thrumming with three fingers. Always gesturing nods of approval to his sidemen during songs like "Lester Leaps in" or "But Not For Me". In the end, it all got the audience standing, cheering and applauding for more, instead only one curtain call and no encore tonight as the three men gracefully thanked their audience, and Brown gesturing his hands for a cocktail and a pillow.
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