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Ray Charles & the Count Basie Orchestra: Ray Sings, Basie Swings

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There is no recipe for success...or is there? Concord's Ray Sings, Basie Swings, reminiscent of past crossover duos, draws upon state-of-the-art technological means to propose a premium posthumous montage. Does this sound formulaic and forced? Maybe, but in the end, they credibly made it more musically attractive than say, yet another best of greatest hits compilation.

Spearheaded by Senior VP of A&R John Burk and producer/drummer Gregg Field, the serendipitous project does swing. And, like Genius Loves Company (Concord, 2004), its Grammy-winning predecessor, Concord retains the promotional support of Starbucks Hear Music's meticulously plotted brand development strategy. Recently, the Seattle-based java giant's retail concept has strategically expanded into satellite radio as well as exclusive online digital contents.

Patiently put together by engineers Seth Presant, Don Murray and Field, the final mix was assembled around a heavily-spliced and EQ'ed live reel performed thirty years ago by Charles in Europe. Here, he is backed by "updated arrangements recorded by the current Count Basie Orchestra in an LA studio session. Now, purists might find comfort in knowing that the somewhat intrusive process was overseen by Joe Adams, Charles' longtime manager, and Basie's entrepreneurial son.

The opener, Rodgers & Hammerstein's pastoral waltz "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning, showcases the Orchestra's famous in-the-pocket ensemble playing. The Genius' legendary showmanship radiates in the soulful shuffle of "Let The Good Times Roll, the laid-back swing of "I Can't Stop Loving You, and the classic ballad, "Georgia On My Mind More, his version of the Gershwins' "How Long Has This Been Going On? is truly unique. Throughout, the band arrangements (principally by Shelly Berg and Tom Scott) and Patti Austin's new Raelettes sound slick and neat.

Overall, considering Charles' impact on American popular music and historical performances herein, this album deserves a sympathetic listen.

Track Listing: Oh, What A Beautiful Morning; Let The Good Times Roll; How Long Has This Been Going On?; Every Saturday Night; Busted; Crying Time; I Can

Personnel: Ray Charles: vocals; Bill Hughes: director; Grant Langford: alto sax; Marshall McDonald: alto sax, flute; Doug Lawrence: tenor sax; Doug Miller: tenor sax; John Williams: baritone sax; Scotty Barnhart: trumpet; Shawn C. Edmonds: trumpet; Endr

Title: Ray Sings, Basie Swings | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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