Ray Brown’s music needs no introduction. Just as the liner notes to Walk On
state, no one played bass like Ray Brown.
Even if you don’t know it, you’re probably already aware of his work, for Brown stands as one of the most recorded jazz musicians of our times. His career spanned five decades. He weathered every major stylistic change in jazz’s tumultuous and rapid development, remaining a constant figure as leader, sideman, composer, and bass master.
As most fans are already sadly aware, Ray Brown passed away last year, depriving the world of one of jazz’s foundational figures. Along with Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, and Scott La Faro, he was one of the greatest contributors to the liberation of the bass as an expressive instrument–in all of jazz history. Brown’s career began early with the Dizzy Gillespie band, flourished rapidly after his stint with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic, and blossomed with his participation in one of jazz’s greatest trios, the Oscar Peterson Trio. After the Trio’s disbanding in 1960, Ray Brown proceeded to record with almost every major jazz figure, founded his own Trio, garnering accolade after accolade.
The 2-disc set Walk On
honors Brown’s long relationship with Telarc Records, as well as his career as a whole. The two CDs consist of one full album of Ray Brown Trio material recorded live in 2000 and a second album of previously unreleased material. Of course, it doesn’t even need to be stated that the music on both discs is outstanding. Perhaps one could claim that here and there Brown’s technique slips due to the inevitable difficulties of age, but you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint very many firm examples.
And that sound is there. It permeates every track, that deep, resonate signature tone, coupled with a stubbornly insistent sense of time. From “Fried Pies” to the Brown composition, “Ray Brown Suite,” to “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Down by the Riverside,” Brown, with the support of his ever talented bandmates, delivers his unique blend of strength, humor, sensitivity, and daring inventiveness.
A mixture of standards, rarer takes, and original compositions, this set is a wonderful example of Brown’s music. Not only does the album reveal the full range of Brown’s talents as bassist, but it also shows what a tremendous leader he was as well. No one played bass like Ray Brown. No one ever has, and no one ever will. He set the standard, and whatever innovations have developed, and continue to develop for the bass, no one will ever sound like he did because he helped define bass playing as an individually expressive act. The next generation of bass greats will owe much to Ray Brown. And they will have to be just as much themselves as he always was.