- Ray Brown (musician)
Infobox musical artist
Name = Ray Brown
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
Birth_name = Raymond Matthews Brown
October 13 1926
July 2 2002
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Diana Krall
Raymond Matthews Brown (
October 13 1926– July 2 2002) was an American jazz double bassist. He is considered by many one of the masters of his instrument, as he developed an almost perfect sense of timekeeping and had a hard swing feel to his lines.
Ray Brown was born in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had piano lessons from the age of eight. After noticing how many pianists attended his high school, he thought of taking up the trombone, but was unable to afford one. With a vacancy in the high school jazz orchestra, he took up the double bass. [ [http://www.npr.org/programs/jazzprofiles/archive/brown_ray.html Ray Brown Jazz Profile at NPR.org] ]
A major early influence on Brown's bass playing was the bassist in the
Duke Ellingtonband, Jimmy Blanton. As a young man Ray Brown became steadily more well known in the Pittsburgh jazz scene, with his first experiences playing in bands with the Jimmy Hinsley Sextetand the Snookum Russelband. After graduating from high school, hearing stories about the burgeoning jazz scene on 52nd Street, in New York City, he bought a one way ticket to New York.
Arriving in New York at the age of twenty, he met up with
Hank Jones, with whom he had previously worked, and was introduced to Dizzy Gillespie, who was looking for a bass player. Gillespie hired Brown on the spot and he soon played with such established musicians as Art Tatumand Charlie Parker.
From 1946 to 1951 he played in Gillespie's band. Brown, along with the
vibraphonist Milt Jackson, drummer Kenny Clarke, and the pianist John Lewis formed the rhythm section of the Gillespie band, and their work together eventually led to the creation of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Brown became acquainted with singer Ella Fitzgeraldwhen she joined the Gillespie band as a special attraction for a tour of the southern United States in 1947. [Shipton, Alyn. "Groovin' High: The Life of Dizzy Gillespie", Oxford University Press, USA : 1999] The two married that year, and together they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald's half-sister Frances, whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr.Fitzgerald and Brown divorced in 1952.
Around this time Brown was also appearing in
Jazz at the Philharmonicconcerts, organised by Norman Granz. It was at a Jazz at the Philharmonicconcert in 1949 that Brown first worked with the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, in whose trio Brown would play from 1951 to 1966. After leaving the Trio he became a manager and promoter as well as a performer. Between 1957 and 1959, he appeared on Blossom Dearie's first five recordings for Verve Records.
In 1966, he settled in
Los Angeleswhere he was in high demand working for various television show orchestras. He also accompanied some of the leading artists of the day, including Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, and Nancy Wilson. He also managed his former musical partners, the Modern Jazz Quartet, as well as a young Quincy Jones, produced some shows for the Hollywood Bowl, wrote jazz double bass instruction books, and developed a jazz cello.
It was whilst in Los Angeles that he composed music for films and television shows. He was awarded his first
Grammyfor his composition, "Gravy Waltz", a tune which would later be used as the theme song for "The Steve Allen Show".
From 1974 to 1982, Brown performed and recorded a series of albums with
guitarist Laurindo Almeida, saxophonist and flutist Bud Shank, and drummer Shelly Manne(replaced by Jeff Hamilton after 1977) under the name The L.A. Four.
He also joined up with Milt Jackson again to record the classic "Jackson, Johnson, Brown & Company" (1983), featuring Jackson and Brown with
J. J. Johnsonon trombone, Tom Ranieron piano, guitarist John Collins, and drummer Roy McCurdy.
Later years and death
In the 1980s and 1990s he led his own trios and continued to refine his bass playing style. In his later years he recorded and toured extensively with pianist
Gene Harris. In the early 1980s, he discovered Diana Krallin a restaurant in Nanaimo, British Columbia. [ [http://www.hopper-management.com/dk_bio_e.htm Diana Krall biography page at Hopper Management] ]
He continued to perform until his death; he died while taking a nap before a show in Indianapolis.
In 2003, Brown was inducted into the "Down Beat" Jazz Hall of Fame.
Ray Brown discography
* [http://hardbop.tripod.com/raybrown.html Ray Brown at the Hard Bop Homepage]
* [http://www.npr.org/programs/jazzprofiles/archive/brown_ray.html Ray Brown Jazz Profile from National Public Radio]
* [http://cnx.org/content/m13536/latest/ Ray Brown biography at Connexions.org]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950CE5DA1231F937A35754C0A9649C8B63 Ray Brown obituary from New York Times July 4, 2002]
* [http://www.jazzdoublebass.com/learning_and_practice/transcriptions.php A number of Ray Brown bass transcriptions]
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