Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bam Bam Bam !!! - Part 3

[C] Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

As we begin this last phase, or “bam,” perhaps we might add three “C’s” as being characteristic of this period in the history of The Ray Brown Trio - “change,” “consistency” and “creativity”:

[1] the “change” involved a move to the Telarc label from Concord Jazz, as well as, changes in personnel with Benny Green replacing Gene Harris on piano and the later change of Gregory Hutchinson replacing Jeff Hamilton on drums;
[2] the “consistency” is in the manner in which the trio was “mic-ed” and recorded by Telarc, as well as, the constancy in having Donald Elfman [himself, a musician] as the writer of the insert notes for just about all of these Telarc recordings;
[3] the [continued] “creativity” not only in the manner in which the selected repertoire is arranged and performed, but also, in the way which Ray expands the trio to accompany guest guitarists, horn players and vocalists.

During the decade of the 1990s, the first major change was Benny Green assumption of the piano chair from Gene Harris.
Fortunately for me, I lived in San Francisco for most of this period and I was able to hear this version of The Ray Brown Trio with its Bay area, native-son pianist many times when it performed at the Old Yoshi’s Jazz club in Berkeley, CA.

With Phineas Newborn, Jr. and again with Gene Harris, Ray had worked with pianists of his own generation. Benny Green was thirty years his junior when Ray turned to him to front this version of his trio; someone who was closer in age to Jeff Hamilton.

While the principal focus of this piece is Ray Brown’s trios, both Phineas Newborn, Jr. and Gene Harris were well known Jazz personalities before they joined Ray’s group. Benny Green, on the other hand, was just turning 30-years of age so it might prove informative at this point to turn to Stanley Crouch’s insert notes to Prelude, Benny’s first album for Criss Cross [CD 1036] made in 1985 in which he offers an interesting description of the evolution of a young Jazz musician in a contemporary American society that in no way prizes the music.
Green's interest in them music was natural and began very early. Born April 4,1963 in New York City but reared in Berkeley, California, he heard Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk records through his tenor saxophonist father. 'I didn't know that it was called jazz. It was just music which I loved from when I first heard it, 'he recalls. Green was envious of his sister who started getting piano lessons and he began improvising with determination at the age of six or so when an instrument was brought into his home. His parents decided that he should learn the piano correctly if the boy was so interested in playing, so he, too, took classical piano lessons. 'My family has always been behind me all the way about playing music,' Green says. The lessons went on for about three years.

Green was very fortunate when he went into the fourth grade because he came in contact with a jazz ensemble of student musicians directed by a man named Phil Hardymon. 'It was kind of unique because there aren't too many student jazz courses throughout the country. Though I had been inspired listening to the music around the house and hearing my father play, this was a different kind of inspiration because I was hearing my peers do it. That made it seem more possible to me.' That possibility was given more thorough grounding when Green's father told his son when he was twelve that if he was going to improvise, he should get serious and start studying the records around the house, start listening to jazz radio, and go out of his way to learn what the masters, whether living or dead, were doing.

'I began studying with a teacher named Carl Andrews, who was instructing me in jazz harmony. I studied with him for about two years. 'Green would try to get in jam sessions and play jazz whenever he could. 'l would go hear pianists Bill Bell and Ed Kelly, who taught me a lot at that time. Dick Whittington was also a big help and Smith Dobson gave me some important pointers. I was starting to understand the music much better and could see how much more is needed to learn.'
At about sixteen, Green was hired by a singer named Faye Carroll and began performing with her frequently. He learned a lot while with the singer because she gave him a lot of room to play, which is how jazz musicians really develop their skills. No matter how many classes they might take or how many improvisations they might memorize or techniques they might work out, unless those materials are brought to the level of performance function, they are largely academic. It is within the sweating demands of the moment, when everything is in motion and every decision has to count, that the jazz player must be able to create musical logic expressive of the emotional qualities that define the individual sensibility. Aware of that, Green would sit in with the best musicians he could, which he did with trumpeter Eddie Henderson after meeting him in San Francisco.
'I sat in with Eddie whenever it was possible, and a few months later he called me to work with him. He was working with a tenor player named Hadley Calliman. Both of them encouraged me a lot. I learned so much being around Eddie. He played me tapes of live gigs with Herbie Hancock that were fascinating to me because of the way the music moved through so many forms, and how one performance could slide through many colors. It was very inspirational and added to what I was already trying to learn. My father had turned me onto Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Monk. I was trying to get a scope of all the eras, so I was listening to a lot of musicians, particularly Red Garland, Tommy Flanagan, Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner'
By the time Green got out of high school, he was doing trio jobs of his own, which allowed him to work at making the things he was listening to and discovering function within his own improvisational efforts. He was listening to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers when they would come to town and he was noticing that there was something different going on in the music of the musicians who were from New York. He could hear a more powerful level of swinging, a deeper groove, a more substantial grasp of rhythmic components that fuel the phrasing of jazz. He knew he had to move east.' l had that on my mind for the last few months that I was in California, regardless of what I was doing. I worked for those months with a band led byt he bassist Chuck Israels, which was about twelve pieces. Then I got to play with Joe Henderson for one night before I left. I knew if I was going to be serious about this music, I had to go where the sound I was hearing from the musicians in New York was coming from. I knew I was missing a lot being in California. There was a focus to swinging I heard coming from New York, which was more definite, more disciplined. In the Bay Area, a lot of the musicians played with a very loose feeling. So I moved to New York when I was nineteen, in 1982'

Shortly after Green got to New York, he heard Walter Bishop with Junior Cook and Bill Hardman. He approached Bishop about studying with him and became a student of the older pianist, who helped him a great deal. 'He showed me a lot about comping because I was impressed by the big sound he got out of the instrument.' Bishop was the link to Bud Powell and he was willing to show Green how he voiced his chords. But, most importantly, Bishop encouraged Green to look for his own music, not just emulate somebody else. 'Walter said that there are three stages of development: imitation, emulation, innovation. Not to say that a musician gets to all three, but those are the logical stages of development. He got me to think about the extensions of the tradition of the piano that have come since Bud Powell'.

At that time Walter Davis and John Hicks also gave Green valuable instructions. Bishop introduced Green to alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, who eventually hired the pianist. While working with Watson, he met pianist James Williams, who also encouraged him to work on his music and stick with it. Williams' encouragement was in line with the assistance and inspiration the young pianist had received from Mulgrew Miller, whom he had heard with Woody Shaw just before leaving the Bay Area. Green was strongly impressed by the sense of tradition and the personal approach within Miller's piano work. Miller also pointed him in productive directions by giving him specific and useful advice. Johnny O'Neil was also very helpful. O'Neil had just joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and was willing to share his knowledge with Green.' I had heard Donald Brown with Art when the band recorded live in San Francisco. Hearing such a fresh voice was enlightening. I'm grateful to Donald, Mulgrew and James for being at once so inspirational and supportive.’
Green free-lanced around New York for about a year, then was called to audition for Betty Carter, who had heard him on a job on Long Island. Green started working with the singer in April of 1983 and remained in her group a few weeks short of four years. 'Betty is a great musician and you learn from her in every possible way. She is a master of pacing. She understands rhythm and tempo and how they fit with harmony and melody perfectly. And most of all Betty Carter swings! Her gig is very challenging because she has very precise things she wants to achieve but she is also very spontaneous. She also helps to heighten her musicians' awareness of their role within an ensemble. That was a very good job for me and it is a very good job for any young musician. Like Art Blakey because she's always finding young musicians, giving them work, teaching them a lot of music, and encouraging them to dedicate themselves. Betty Carter is a great musician and a great person.'

In April of 1987, Green left the singer's band for the Jazz Messengers. 'Playing with Art Blakey has been, by far, the greatest experience of my life. I never have before and I'm sure I never will again come in contact with a greater musical spirit. When Art comes on the bandstand, whatever else is going on in life is forgotten and the music takes over. Art truly practices what he preaches in washing away the dust of every day life with music. And this is certainly the musician's job. As I mature, I hope to come closer to being able to achieve this on my own.'”
The first album by Ray’s new trio, BassFace [Telarc CD-83340], was recorded live at the Kuumbawa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, CA on April 1-2, 1993 and it is an absolute corker!

One simply has to hand it to Ray. How in the world do you follow the likes of Phineas Newborn, Jr. and Gene Harris, why, with Benny Green, of course. And, as is in evidence on this album, this “kid” can play [not to mention the fact that he swings his backside off].

What is also in evidence on this recording is that Ray Brown is becoming quite a polished performer: whether it is in the form of introductions to or interacting with the audience or in the thought give to how the tunes are sequenced or in the imaginative way in which the music is arranged and played.

Another aspect of Ray’s approach to each set is to intersperse a showcase for each member of the trio and on BassFace this takes the form of solo spotlights for Ray on Kenny Burrell’s title track, for Benny Green it is Taking a Chance on Love [prefaced by Ray remarking to the a heartily approving audience – “I guess by now you’ve noticed that we have a new piano player!”] and for Jeff it’s a workout on the seemingly odd choice of Irving Berlin’s Remember [“odd” only until you hear what Jeff does with it].

The Kuumbwa set begins and ends with Milestones and Ray’s original Phineas Can Be, both of which are up-tempo cookers. Ray usually includes in each performance tunes by or associated with Duke Ellington and/or Dizzy Gillespie and in this instance the latter gets the nod with the trio’s version of Tin Tin Deo. And to finish off the typical Ray Brown Set Recipe, it most always includes a blues and a ballad with CRS – CRAFT [another Brown original] sufficing for the former and In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning taking the tempo down for the set.
Donald Elfman concludes his insert notes to BassFace with these observations:

“The piano trio format has always been a showcase for an almost theatrical approach to jazz, and the Ray Brown Trio is undeniably a performing group. But these three distinct musical personalities, each with innate ability and a beautiful desire to communicate, keep the music paramount. Here, they offer poetic and always inviting readings of standards from the jazz and popular music songbooks as well as Ray’s originals. Each player shines brightly, thanks in large part to the formidable example and presence of the one and only Ray Brown.”
Next up for this engaging and entertaining trio was the 1994 CD Don’t Get Sassy [Telarc CD-83368] and contrary to the admonition contained in its title, the trio gets very sassy indeed on this marvelous CD which was to be their last together as a unit.

Along with a striking rendition of Con Alma, the Dizzy acknowledgement on this CD is a blistering version of Mario Bauza’s Tanga that offers some dazzling two-handed, octaves apart piano work by Benny Green and enough Jeff Hamilton kicks and licks to once again demonstrate that “the little, big band” is back.

The Duke Ellington tribute is in the form of a three tune medley that concludes the set which includes Rain Check [whose melody is played as a waltz before moving into an fast tempo drum feature for Jeff], In A Sentimental Mood, and Squatty Roo. Ray also contributes When You Go, a beautiful, original ballad that deserves greater recognition as it would be interesting to hear other Jazz musicians “play on it.”
Here’s Donald Elfman’s “take” on the album:

“The spontaneity of a live jazz setting often, when we're lucky, viscerally and excitingly affects the immediacy of the artist's performance. It is a give-and-take affair in which the musicians communicate with the audience which, in turn, responds in such a way as to spur the artist to even greater heights. Telarc and Ray Brown have each done their share of live recordings, working together on this trio's debut for the label (Bassface) and other special recordings with Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn.

For this new album, the artist and the label have decided to alter the nature of the live recording so as to have the best of both worlds: to involve the audience in a creative and interactive fashion and to have more control over the recorded performance. The members of the trio invited guests for each night of recording, and the audience was made up of enthusiastic friends, relatives, and selected notables. Signet Studio in Hollywood became a jazz club, but one where the audience could often hear from the control room and from the "stage" elements of the process that make a recording. The give-and-take was thus transformed into a situation where three distinct groups participated; the experience was instructive and enjoyable for all involved.

The three members of the Ray Brown Trio and the production staff of Telarc are long-standing professionals who have been involved in the art of recording countless times before. This time they added the audience into the equation in a way that retained the vividness of classic live recordings skillfully blending control and freedom.

Under no circumstances, of course, could this trio give anything less than an electric, immediate performance. Ray, Benny, and Jeff combine extraordinary rich experience in many settings with breathtaking technique and an overwhelming desire to reach an audience. They transform the standards of this and other popular music and make it impossible not to share in the moment. Ray Brown has been doing that for over fifty years, and his partners here have learned his valuable lessons well.

The crowd quickly becomes part of the experience. They take audible delight in the magic the players work on tunes by some of Ray's old bosses, by giants of jazz and popular music and from the vast store of classic song.

You can hear Ray's special affection for the late Dizzy Gillespie in two compositions with an Afro-Latin influence - Con Alma and Tanga. The brilliant Ellington medley includes a moving Arco solo by Ray on the popular In a Sentimental Mood and some striking and varied tones and colors on the lesser known Rain Check and Squatty Roo.

Of special interest from the pop songbook is a gorgeous rendition of a tune that Tony Bennett popularized, The Good Life, with the great piano playing of Benny Green leading us. Great tunes, even ones that are played frequently, sound new every time when masters like these improvise on them.

In a collection of terrific performances, the reading of Thad Jones's Don't Get Sassy is a standout. Ray understands the essence of the late trumpeter-composer-bandleader's music and his continuing importance -particularly to jazz writing. The trio works out with abandon on this powerfully funky tune from the Jones repertoire.

From Ray's own pen comes a new blues entitled, appropriately, Brown's New Blues. Ray again shows how and why he's a master in every way - soloist, accompanist, composer, leader, showman.

It is a credit to the artistry involved here that many of the audience members returned for both nights. They understood that great jazz takes on new colors every time out - even if some of the songs remain the same. And they obviously are thrilled in being part of the team that helped to create the right environment for the level of invention that the Ray Brown Trio delivers.”
Don’t Get Sassy was Jeff Hamilton’s last album with Ray before moving on to form his own trio.
Ray’s next Telarc release - Seven Steps to Heaven [CD-83364] - introduced Gregory Hutchinson as the group’s new drummer. Also making an appearance ois the fine Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius. A brief review of the musical resumes of both Hutchinson and Wakenius is contained in the following Don Elfman album insert notes along with are fine summary of the album’s highlights.
“Ray Brown is in the process of joining the pantheon of major jazz players who have also become great bandleaders. He has, like such illustrious predecessors as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Art Blakey, created groups that have forged distinctive signature sounds through the discovery of burgeoning talent with the spirit to both communicate as part of a group and develop an individual sound. What's particularly noteworthy about Ray is that for years, it seems he has been one of those soloists - first with the Modern Jazz Quartet in the late 1940s, then with the Oscar Peterson trios of the' 50s and '60s, and throughout in an unbelievable variety of ensembles and in a vast assortment of musical styles and types. After this expansive and extensive preparation, Ray Brown is, and has been, a leader.

For over ten years he has stood solidly at the helm of the Ray Brown Trio, a group which has lived and maintained the solid blues traditions of basic jazz and established environments where soloists can shine. In the piano chair, first Gene Harris (formerly of The Three Sounds) and now Benny Green have happily found the place where past and present meet, where dazzling virtuosity and an urgency to entertain join up with a solid sense of musical architecture and a need to communicate. And, as a matter of fact, drummers, Jeff Hamilton and now Gregory Hutchinson demonstrate the same mix of sensibilities. It's curious but no real surprise that Green and Hutchinson, both at first associated with the young lion new breed, have chosen to go into the roots and create new explosions in a much more traditional vein. These solid digs have taken place in the rich atmosphere - inventive and joyous - created by Ray Brown.

That brings us to the album at hand, a sparkling set of mostly old favorites and a couple of Ray's originals. All are done with the verve and spirit that have come to define any venture connected with Ray Brown, yet it's another tune still that points us to the sound picture that this set calls to mind. The Thumb is a soulful celebration of the unique talent that was its composer, Wes Montgomery. Here, and throughout the album, with the Wes-like playing of Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius, we are in the world of the classic Montgomery plus trio recordings. That Ray and his men should have feeling for Wes is perfectly fitting, since the late guitarist's recordings had the same beautiful blend of extraordinary invention and audience appeal that, no matter how broad, never compromised the scope of the invention or the depth of the feeling. And that, of course, is what we have here in this newest Ray Brown recording.
A word, first, is in order regarding Ulf Wakenius. It's no easy task to take on the role, even unspoken, of one of the greatest soloists in the history of the music. But Ulf seems undaunted by the challenge, primarily, its seems, because he does not take it as a challenge. With a steady assurance and bold confidence, he sends the music from his heart and head to his fingers and thus quietly, but most assertively, assumes the guitar chair by just playing. Working with players from Herbie Hancock and Jack DeJohnette to Niels-Henning Orstedt Pedersen ( in whose group he currently performs), he is what Jazz Journal called "a new breed of guitarist," combining "a formidable technique with a rare sense of dynamics, a multitude of influences with a precise, driving individualism." The aforementioned Montgomery tune shows right away all of the qualities that make a top-notch player incredible dexterity, a sense of what to include and when, and an exhilarating spirit that sends his playing and, in fact, the tune, soaring skyward.

The other "new" player here is drummer Gregory Hutchinson. He's sharpened his musical axe in the bands of Betty Carter, Joe Henderson (both of whom have done things original and new with the tradition) and alongside new stalwarts of rhythm Christian McBride, Geri Allen and Marc Cary, so he's made it clear that he knows the prevailing jazz currents. What's also clear is that he thinks about where this music has been, and he is now able to live those questions with Ray Brown, who has never stopped questioning. And there is the awesome, ever-growing Benny Green leading us to new worlds with his pianism.
What this album, then, is all about is a sense of "the groove." These players have certainly found it together and sound like a unit, even though this is the first time they've all recorded together. Each has his own voice and finds an individual groove without hogging the spotlight, but as a group these men find the place to lock together and stay there throughout. They make these old gems sparkle - even if you've heard In a Sentimental Mood or Stella By Starlight countless times, the mastery of this group, the power of Ray's arrangements and the vitality of the tunes help make this a new first time.

As always, Ray provides the solid rock from which the other players build. He seems both a father and a brother to these young players, offering a warm nesting place as well as an encouraging and instructive push. And what's finally amazing is that they give him lessons, too.”

As a point in passing, while at Telarc, Ray’s trio was used as the rhythm section for a number of CDs issued under the rubric “Some of My Best Friends Are ….” This phrased was completed with everything from “Piano Players” to “Sax Players” to “Vocalists,” all of which are outside the range of this piece [but well worth listening to hear more of Benny Green and the two pianists who followed him with Ray – Geoff Keezer and Larry Fuller – neither of whom is included in this feature].
Which brings us to the last of the Benny Green recordings – The Ray Brown Trio: Live at Scullers [Telarc CD-83405]. Recorded on location at the Boston club on April 17-18, 1996, Richard S. Ginell had this to say about the recording on

“Staying young by working with the young, Ray Brown and cohorts Benny Green (piano) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums) laid down a set of jazz and pop standards at a club in a Boston Double Tree Hotel. Though Brown is the leader and anchor of the date, quite obviously the pianist is going to dominate the act — and Green definitely puts on a show, wiping everyone out with the pyrotechnics of "You're My Everything," engaging in a gentle stride opening to "But Not for Me," and coming logically to a bombastic climax. Hutchinson is capable, swinging, and occasionally volatile, and Brown mostly steps back and gives these guys a firm underpinning, with a sly solo now and then ("Bye, Bye Blackbird.") There are few surprises or deviations from the mainstream here, but a good time will be had by anyone who gives this a spin.”
And the ever-present and “consistent” Donald Elfman provided the following well-scripted and astute insert notes to the recording:

“One of the beautiful ways we as humans show maturity and growth is in how we stand in a spotlight. When we're young we desperately need attention at center stage, and if it means showboating or speaking louder or other garish displays, we do those things because they're necessary for our sense of self. But as we age and become more confident with just who we are and what we've accomplished, we can, hopefully, generously and with assurance give the room and space to others without any loss of our own individuality or distinct personality. It's truly revelatory to see this process in people, because it also shows us what we ourselves can become.

Musicians who choose the performing life act out this process before the public - in person or on record - and it is a quietly breathtaking experience for an audience to watch artists grow in this way. Since Louis Armstrong first made jazz a soloist's art, the individual's statement has tended to be more dazzling and exploratory, and thus the link to that spotlight must be harder to break. So it is even more amazing to see a modern jazz musician fully grow into the music, making all his personal expression an organic part of a larger whole.

As witness by the performance recorded here-and in fact by all he does-Ray Brown has magnificently mastered this maturation process and become a jazz Everyman who still says as much or more than anyone. Of course one might make the case that as a bass player Ray had to learn from the start to make his voice a more supportive and quiet one, and there's some truth to that. But Ray Brown was always a player with his own personality, backing some of the greatest names in music but always in such a way that you always knew he was there and you wanted to hear what he had to say. So it's a nice surprise to know that this master, after years of playing and leading his own groups, has managed to put everything he does at the service of greater communication.

The Ray Brown Trio has become one of the most emotionally rewarding and entertaining working groups in all of jazz. Mr. Brown is clearly the leader - and as a mentor, as a rock-solid foundation, and as the senior member of the group he has given his young partners focus, direction, and somehow even greater freedom. But in so doing he has ably presented an unselfish personality that means that he has earned the role of leader. And what he has given has helped his sidemen towards that greater development as mature players.

From his earliest days as Betty Carter's pianist, Benny Green demonstrated dazzling, showstopping virtuosity at the keyboard. Work with the Ray Brown Trio, however, has defined and directed his technique, rounding out and synthesizing the way he holds attention. On Bye Bye Blackbird, for example, it's certain he begins with a notion of the classic Red Garland performance from the Miles Davis days, but he transforms the bravura of that recording and even the knock-'em-dead approach of some of his own work into a more rich understanding of the song and how to tell its story with other players at your side.

Gregory Hutchinson began his musical career as one of the "young lions," next to such current raves as Christian McBride, and thus he was thrust into a spotlight in which his volcanic drumming was broadly evident. He's always seemed to have a full command of his instrument but his work in this splendid trio seems to have given birth to a more complete range of expressive capability. On the gently pulsing En Estate, his subtle presence says as much about the song and its feeling as can be expressed by any instrument. And in combination with the dark but vitally immediate sounds of the Brown bass, and the sensitive lyricism of the pianist, he is able to beautifully urge the music forward.

The Ray Brown Trio performances are a finely drawn mix of incisive and thoughtful improvising and crowd-pleasing virtuosity. As a member of the classic Oscar Peterson trios, Ray seems to have learned how best to affect that blend and really make it work. The choice of tunes and Ray's arrangements here are further evidence of Ray's unselfishness - he gives himself to the richness of the standard and jazz repertoire. Mr. Brown is a leader, but these are true group performances with each member helping to give them shape.”
Mike Hennessey, a writer about Jazz whose work is often represented on Jazz Profiles has elsewhere posed the question as to “Where are the Gillespies, Parkers, Rollinses, Getzes, J.J. Johnsons and Miles Davieses of the new Jazz generation? [To which he answers] “There aren’t any.”

Hennessey goes on to explain that the insinuation of this question and answer is that it is “… intended to imply that the general level of [Jazz] artistry and creativity today is in a state of decline.”

To this charge, Hennessy offers two pertinent quotations, taken appropriately from members of today’s Jazz generation.

The first is from trumpeter Terence Blanchard: “The real problem is that people keep looking for new Dizzys, Birds and Tranes instead of judging the new generation of musicians on their own terms and evaluating their music objectively. Why should they be expected to be clones of other musicians?”

Alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, Blanchard’s partner at the time of this writing continues the sentiment by adding: “The general standard of playing among today’s young Jazz musicians is getting higher and higher all the time.”

Any doubt about the merit contained in these assertions by Blanchard and Harrison is further swept away by listening to the playing of current generation musicians like Benny Green and Gregory Hutchinson.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that many of the players from Jazz’s earlier generations were very limited in what they had to offer both technically and creatively. Which is another way of saying that they weren’t all giants, by any means.

From this standpoint, it is exasperating to listen to earlier generations of Jazz followers extol the work of obviously limited piano players who couldn’t play two notes with their right hand before slipping into the keyboard’s cracks over the precision, pianism and un-ending inventiveness of a Benny Green.

But for those listeners [from any generation] who are willing to open their ears and give youth its due - solely on the basis of creative merit - their patience and generosity will be amply rewarded with some great Jazz as played by some terrific young Jazz musicians who are every bit the equal of their idols and then some. To his credit, Ray Brown instinctively understood that if he wanted to continue to play with musicians of the highest ability, he had to do his part in cultivating their growth and development from among a younger crop of players.

In this regard, one can’t say enough about all that he did to help advance the cause of young Jazz musicians although his reasons for doing so weren’t entirely altruistic. For as he also said to me that night at Yoshi’s 15 years ago: “This is where and how I make my living and I want to make it as enjoyable as possible. Besides helping them mature keeps me young.”
Whatever his motivation, for we Jazz fans, there is the legacy of all the great trio Jazz music Ray left us through his loving devotion to Phineas Newborn, his urging and ultimately bringing Gene Harris out of retirement and his helping to further develop Benny Green’s career so he could carry the torch of Jazz in the current generation.

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