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Carline Ray: Vocal Sides

C. Michael Bailey By

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Vocalist Carline Ray has a musical reach that extends to the beginning of jazz. Her father played in James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra in the early years of the 20th Century. Juilliard-trained (as her father was) Ray sang and played guitar and bass in a variety of formats in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm and Erskine Hawkins, all in the late '40s and early '50s. She has enjoyed a lifetime in jazz, both performing and learning. With the singer in her late 80s, it was not without a little trepidation that she releases a recording considering Anita O'Day's late-life offering Indestructible (Kayo Stereophonic, 2006). Rather than smacking of desiccation and exploitation, as Indestructible did, Ray's Vocal Sides beams only raw grace and experience and a radioactive dignity that demands respect and notice.

Produced by her singer/daughter Catherine Russell, Vocal Sides exposes Ray to a variety of formats to react against. She sings a recital that spans jazz time, that is, across time, styles, periods, the whole of the music's history. Ray vocally arranged the Hammerstein/Romberg "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" to reflect influences from Mahalia Jackson and deep gospel from the '30s to Sarah Vaughan and high jazz in the '60s. She divides the song in two between the singers separated by a Miles Davis "Walkin'" piano vamp that gently swings in that late '40s way that made Frank Sinatra so famous.

The pairing of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" and the standard "Back Home in Indiana" is as inspired as is Ray's singing, attacking be bop at its core and laying waste to it. Ray covers two Mary Lou Williams spiritual pieces: a bluesy "Lazarus," propelled by Gregg Skaff's staccato guitar figure and a darkly hued "Our Father." Ray duets with daughter Catherine Russell on and bouncy gospel "Land Beyond the River" and "Hold On." Thad Jones' "A Child is Born" is a highlight, as well as, Ray's husband, Luis Russell's rollicking "Lucille." Vocal Sides is a masterful achievement.

Track Listing: When I Grow Too Old to Dream; Donna Lee / Back Home Again in Indiana; Somewhere; Lazarus; Our Father; Land Beyond the River Come Sunday; Hold On; A Child Is Born; Without a Song; Lucille.

Personnel: Carline Ray: vocals, vocal arrangement (1); Catherine Russell: vocals (6, 8); Yuka Aikawa: piano (1, 2, 3, 5,10); Mark Shane: piano (6); Atsundo Aikawa: bass (1, 2, 3, 5,10); Greg Skaff: guitar (4, 7, 9); Mark McLean: drums (1, 2, 10) Akua Dixon: cello (7,9); Frank Anderson: organ (11).

Title: Vocal Sides | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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