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The Ray Brown Trio received very high marks for their performance at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles Friday night the 16th of February. The trio presented a compelling set complete with material ranging from an original piece composed by Ray for Phineas Newborn to Duke Ellington classics set in a medley that showcased each member’s greatest talents. The veteran bassist stepped into the spotlight joined by Larry Fuller on piano and George Fludas on drums on a show that, at times, brought shouts from the full house packed with celebrities, politicians and jazz lovers! There was no room for “cool” detachment tonight. Ray Brown’s distinguished 60 year career with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, recordings with the founding fathers of bebop: Bird, Max Roach and Bud Powell and the musical anchor of the legendary Oscar Peterson Trio, has established him as the world’s leading jazz bassist. Tonight the audience in Los Angeles was shown why! Ray kicked off the show with a composition simply described as “classical with a little grease in the middle.” His arco bass and bowing techniques were shining in the spotlight as the trio later slipped into “Time After Time.” This bebop rendition worked well with the crowd since they could enjoy the tune’s structure without having to think about it through a haze of un-related improvisations. As Ray stopped to tell the audience of his association with The Dizzy Gillespie Big Band in 1945, an immediate hush fell over the room as he played “If You Could See Me Now.” The ambience of this song was enraptured with the brilliant piano playing of Larry Fuller, who has great chops and plays with such command in both his solos and background sections. Ray Brown then launched into another great story about Phineas Newborn and explained how Southerners pronounce Phineas as “Fine As” with this new pronunciation becoming the inspiration for his composition, “Fine As Can Be.” This straight-ahead gem was pure dazzle and displayed Brown’s impeccable command of acoustic bass voicings. As the show approached conclusion, Ray Brown led off a medley of Duke Ellington classics. “This is where we can do anything we want to do, as long as it’s written by Duke Ellington,” Brown told the audience. He started his medley with the Strayhorn favorite, “Lush Life,” eased into “Sophisticated Lady” and glided in on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” His acoustic bass artistry is pure genius. Up next was Larry Fuller who started out with “Prelude To A Kiss” and believe me, there were many couples kissing in the audience that night. Fuller’s loving piano medley captured Duke’s essence as he completed his medley in a hard-driving, bop based swinging style. Fludas, took his cue and jumped on “Cottontail” bringing a thunderous applause from the audience.
This was an a very exciting show with Ray Brown playing melody lines set against harmonic arpeggios and alternate harmonies. A great time was had by one and all.