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The Ray Brown Trio: Some of My Best Friends are...Guitarists

C. Michael Bailey By

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The Ray Brown Trio: Some of My Best Friends are...Guitarists

Go Down, Moses...

 

Some of My Best Friends are...Guitarists is the fifth in Ray Brown's series by the same name. Just for drill the others are:



  • ... Piano Players (Telarc Jazz 83373, 1995)
  • ... Sax Players (Telarc Jazz 83388, 1995)
  • ... Singers (Telarc Jazz 83441, 1998)
  • ... Trumpet Players (Telarc Jazz 83495, 2000)


All of these recordings have been critically well received and boast well for the 75-year-old Pittsburgh native who has been actively performing for the better part of 60 years. Known for Swiss time keeping and an expansive tone, Brown has also been a bandleader and teacher of note. While not sharing the bandleader fame afforded Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Betty Carter, and Wynton Marsalis, Brown, nevertheless, has provided tutelage for a generation of bassists, pianists, and drummers. After gaining notoriety playing in Dizzy Gillespie’s band followed by a stint with the precursor to the Modern Jazz Quartet, Brown signed on for a 15-year tour with the Oscar Peterson Trio. After several years managing musicians like the Modern Jazz Quartet and Quincy Jones, Brown began forming his own piano trios. He is credited with reviving the career of long time associate, the late Gene Harris, as well as for singer Ernestine Anderson.

Along with Harris, Brown has also used Monty Alexander, Geoff Keezer, and Benny Green in the piano seat. He has made a successful procession of trio recordings for both Concord and Telarc Jazz. Keezer joins him on the current outing that highlights the guitar.

Some of My Best Friends are...Guitarists is most effective in presenting the different personalities of guitarists with fairly different approaches. John Pizzarelli’s sweet nature is highlighted on "Squeeze Me" and "Tangerine," while Russell Malone’s melodic invention populates "Heartstrings" and "Little Darlin’." Herb Ellis is half-ballads and half blues on "I Want to Be Happy" and the specifically penned "Blues For Junior". Kenny Burrell turns in a swinging "Fly Me to The Moon" and a sincere tribute to the late Billy Higgins, "Soulful Spirit." Most compelling is the 44-year-old Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius who showed up on Brown's recent Telarc Jazz release, Summertime (Telarc Jazz 83430, 1998). His brand of guitar is high-IQ Hard Bop, exuding a muscular intelligence and invention that gives the current recording a decidedly contemporary personality. Wakenius's own "Blues for Ray" is a Hard Bop clinic with its jagged head and serpentine solos. The Swede's second offering is a densely introspective "My Funny Valentine." Rounding out the festivities are Brown's current trio of Geoff Keezer and Karriem Riggins, who perform as one would expect, superbly.

It was once said of associate Gene Harris that he would always make the same record...but that is okay. The same can be said for his former boss...and that is okay.

Track Listing: Squeeze Me; I Want To Be Happy; Heartstrings; Blues For Ray; Fly Me To The Moon; The Song Is You; Little Darlin'; Blues For Junior; Tangerine; My Funny Valentine; Blues For Wes; Soulful Spirit. (Total Time: 66:04).

Personnel: Ray Brown-- Bass; Geoff Keezer-- Piano; Karriem Riggins: Drums; Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Bruce Forman, Russell Malone, John Pizzarelli, Ulf Wakenius-- Guitar.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Telarc Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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