Online since August 2002

Brown left on high note

From the Autumn 2002 issue.

Some of My Best Friends Are ... Guitarists
Some of My Best Friends Are ... Guitarists
By The Ray Brown Trio

Telarc Records: 2002

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Bassist Ray Brown left us this year — too soon gone. The bass player on some of the most seminal bebop recordings from the late forties and early fifties — with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and others — Brown went on to shape a wide-ranging jazz career that spanned more than a half-century.

He played with ... well, just about everybody: Sixteen years in the Oscar Peterson Trio; the bassist for all of Frank Sinatra's television specials; accompanist for (and for a time, husband of) singer Ella Fitzgerald; and mentor to young jazz musicians too numerous to name.

Brown's approach to jazz — and life — can be summed up by one word: class.

Tall, movie-star handsome, an immaculate dresser, a man with a regal and slightly bemused bearing, everything he touched in jazz was an exquisite piece of craftsmanship.

His last projects, on Telarc Records, were the "Some of My Best Friends Are..." discs. Starting with "Piano Players," Brown also offered up "Sax Players," "Singers" and "Trumpet Players."

And now: "Some of My Best Friends Are ... Guitarists." Twelve songs, six of jazz's finest guitar guys. John Pizzarelli, Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Bruce Foreman, Russell Malone and Ulf Wakenius, working through a few classics ("Fly Me to the Moon," "My Funny Valentine"), some guest-penned songs just for the occasion (Wakenius' "Blues for Ray"; Burrell's "Soulful Spirit," in memory of the recently passed jazz drummer Billy Higgins), and more.

Like all the "Best Friends" discs, this one is a flawlessly, tastefully, exquisitely crafted set of songs. Brown could do no less. And pay special attention to pianist Geoff Keezer: His spare accompanying style leaves lots of room for the guitarists, and his solos are concise, inventive and surprising little interludes.

Ray Brown could pick 'em — bandmates and projects. All the Best Friends discs get the highest recommendation. Start with your favorite instrument and go from there.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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