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Ray Brown (musician)

Ray Brown (musician)

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Raymond Matthews Brown was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 double bassist.


Ray Brown was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

, 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
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

, but was unable to afford one. With a vacancy in the high school jazz orchestra, he took up the upright bass.

A major early influence on Brown's bass playing was the bassist in the Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

 band, Jimmy Blanton
Jimmy Blanton
Jimmie Blanton was an influential American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of pizzicato and bowed bass solos....

. 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 Sextet and the Snookum Russell
Snookum Russell
Snookum Russell was a pianist and leader of a territory band that played tobacco warehouses and dance halls in the South and Midwest in the 1930s, '40s and '50s.Members of his bands included J. J...

 band. After graduating from high school, hearing stories about the burgeoning jazz scene on 52nd Street, in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, he bought a one way ticket to New York.

Arriving in New York at the age of twenty, he met up with Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Henry "Hank" Jones was an American jazz pianist, bandleader, arranger, and composer. Critics and musicians described Jones as eloquent, lyrical, and impeccable. In 1989, The National Endowment for the Arts honored him with the NEA Jazz Masters Award...

, with whom he had previously worked, and was introduced to Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed "the sound of surprise".Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz...

, who was looking for a bass player. Gillespie hired Brown on the spot and he soon played with such established musicians as Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Arthur "Art" Tatum, Jr. was an American jazz pianist and virtuoso who played with phenomenal facility despite being nearly blind.Tatum is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time...

 and Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer....


From 1946 to 1951 he played in Gillespie's band. Brown, along with the vibraphonist
Notable players of the vibraphone include:* Peter Appleyard* Roy Ayers* Karl Berger* Jeff Berman* Jack Brokensha* Larry Bunker* Christian Burchard* Rusty Burge* Gary Burton* Joe Chambers* Teddy Charles* Salem Chiles* John Cocuzzi* Monte Croft...

 Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milton "Bags" Jackson was an American jazz vibraphonist, usually thought of as a bebop player, although he performed in several jazz idioms...

, drummer Kenny Clarke
Kenny Clarke
Kenny Clarke , born Kenneth Spearman Clarke, nicknamed "Klook" and later known as Liaqat Ali Salaam, was a jazz drummer and an early innovator of the bebop style of drumming...

, and the pianist John Lewis
John Lewis (pianist)
John Aaron Lewis was an American jazz pianist and composer best known as the musical director of the Modern Jazz Quartet.- Early life:...

 formed the rhythm section of the Gillespie band. Lewis, Clarke and Jackson eventually formed the Modern Jazz Quartet
Modern Jazz Quartet
The Modern Jazz Quartet was established in 1952 by Milt Jackson , John Lewis , Percy Heath , and Kenny Clarke . Connie Kay replaced Clarke in 1955...

. Brown became acquainted with singer Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

 when she joined the Gillespie band as a special attraction for a tour of the southern United States in 1947. The two married that year, and together they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald's half-sister Frances, whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr.
Ray Brown, Jr.
Ray Brown, Jr. is an American jazz and blues pianist and singer.The adopted son of Ray Brown and Ella Fitzgerald, he was born in New York City, New York to Fitzgerald's half-sister Frances...

 Fitzgerald and Brown divorced in 1952.

Around this time Brown was also appearing in Jazz at the Philharmonic
Jazz at the Philharmonic
Jazz at the Philharmonic, or JATP, was the title of a series of jazz concerts, tours and recordings produced by Norman Granz....

 concerts, organised by Norman Granz
Norman Granz
Norman Granz was an American jazz music impresario and producer.Granz was a fundamental figure in American jazz, especially from about 1947 to 1960...

. It was at a Jazz at the Philharmonic
Jazz at the Philharmonic
Jazz at the Philharmonic, or JATP, was the title of a series of jazz concerts, tours and recordings produced by Norman Granz....

 concert in 1949 that Brown first worked with the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the "Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, "O.P." by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards, and received other numerous awards and honours over the course of his career...

, in whose trio Brown would play from 1951 to 1966. Between 1957 and 1959, he appeared on Blossom Dearie
Blossom Dearie
Blossom Dearie was an American jazz singer and pianist, often performing in the bebop genre and remembered for her girlish voice.-Early career:...

's first five recordings for Verve Records
Verve Records
Verve Records is an American jazz record label now owned by Universal Music Group. It was founded by Norman Granz in 1956, absorbing the catalogues of his earlier labels, Clef Records and Norgran Records , and material which had been licensed to Mercury previously.-Jazz and folk origins:The Verve...

. After leaving the Trio he became a manager and promoter as well as a performer.

In 1966, he settled in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 where 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
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Billy Eckstine
Billy Eckstine
William Clarence Eckstine was an American singer of ballads and a bandleader of the swing era. Eckstine's smooth baritone and distinctive vibrato broke down barriers throughout the 1940s, first as leader of the original bop big-band, then as the first romantic black male in popular...

, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

, Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Lois Vaughan was an American jazz singer, described by Scott Yanow as having "one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century."...

, and Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson (singer)
Nancy Wilson is an American singer with more than 70 albums, and three Grammy Awards. She has been labeled a singer of blues, jazz, cabaret and pop; a "consummate actress"; and "the complete entertainer." The title she prefers, however, is song stylist...

. He also managed his former musical partners, the Modern Jazz Quartet, as well as a young Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Delightt Jones, Jr. is an American record producer and musician. A conductor, musical arranger, film composer, television producer, and trumpeter. His career spans five decades in the entertainment industry and a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammys, including a Grammy Legend...

, produced some shows for the Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is a modern amphitheater in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, California, United States that is used primarily for music performances...

, wrote jazz bass instruction books, and developed a jazz cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...


It was whilst in Los Angeles that he composed music for films and television shows. He was awarded his first Grammy for his composition, "Gravy Waltz", a tune which would later be used as the theme song for The Steve Allen
Steve Allen (comedian)
Stephen Valentine Patrick William "Steve" Allen was an American television personality, musician, composer, actor, comedian, and writer. Though he got his start in radio, Allen is best known for his television career. He first gained national attention as a guest host on Arthur Godfrey's Talent...


From 1974 to 1982, Brown performed and recorded a series of albums with guitarist
A guitarist is a musician who plays the guitar. Guitarists may play a variety of instruments such as classical guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars. Some guitarists accompany themselves on the guitar while singing.- Versatility :The guitarist controls an extremely...

 Laurindo Almeida
Laurindo Almeida
Laurindo Almeida was a Brazilian virtuoso guitaristand composer who made many recordings of enduring impact in classical, jazz and Latin genres...

, saxophonist
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

 and flutist
A flautist or flutist is a musician who plays an instrument in the flute family. See List of flautists.The choice of "flautist" versus "flutist" is the source of dispute among players of the instrument...

 Bud Shank
Bud Shank
Clifford Everett "Bud" Shank, Jr. was an American alto saxophonist and flautist. He rose to prominence in the early 1950s playing lead alto and flute in Stan Kenton's Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra and throughout the decade worked in various small jazz combos. He spent the 1960s as a first...

, and drummer
A drummer is a musician who is capable of playing drums, which includes but is not limited to a drum kit and accessory based hardware which includes an assortment of pedals and standing support mechanisms, marching percussion and/or any musical instrument that is struck within the context of a...

 Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne , born Sheldon Manne in New York City, was an American jazz drummer. Most frequently associated with West Coast jazz, he was known for his versatility and also played in a number of other styles, including Dixieland, swing, bebop, avant-garde jazz and fusion, as well as contributing...

 (replaced by Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton (drummer)
Jeff Hamilton is an American jazz drummer. He is co-director of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and leader of his own trio.-Career:...

 after 1977) under the name The L.A. Four
The L.A. Four (group)
The L.A. Four was a jazz quartet that performed in Los Angeles, California, from 1974 to 1982. Its members were guitarist Laurindo Almeida, saxophonist and flutist Bud Shank, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Shelly Manne, replaced by Jeff Hamilton after 1977...

He also joined up with Milt Jackson again to record the classic Jackson, Johnson, Brown & Company (1983), featuring Jackson and Brown with J. J. Johnson on trombone, Tom Ranier on piano, guitarist John Collins
John Collins (jazz guitarist)
John Elbert Collins was a jazz guitarist who accompanied many swing era names from 1935–1950, including Art Tatum, Roy Eldridge, Billie Holiday and Lester Young. His longest association was with Nat "King" Cole, 1951-1965. Known for his rhythm work, he soloed infrequently...

, and drummer Roy McCurdy
Roy McCurdy
Roy McCurdy, born November 28, 1936 in Rochester, New York, is a jazz drummer.Before joining Cannonball Adderley's Quintet in 1965 and staying with the band until Adderley's death in 1975, he had played with Chuck and Gap Mangione in the Jazz Brothers , as well as with Bobby Timmons, Betty Carter...


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
Gene Harris
Gene Harris was an American jazz pianist known for his warm sound and blues and gospel infused style that is known as soul jazz....

. In the early 1980s, Ray Brown met Diana Krall
Diana Krall
Diana Jean Krall, OC, OBC is a Canadian jazz pianist and singer, known for her contralto vocals. She has sold more than 6 million albums in the US and over 15 million worldwide; altogether, she has sold more albums than any other female jazz artist during the 1990s and 2000s...

 in a restaurant in Nanaimo, British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

. According to Jeff Hamilton, in an interview recorded on the "Diana Krall Live in Rio" DVD, he first heard Diana Krall play at a workshop and, impressed with her piano skills (she was not yet singing) introduced her to bassist John Clayton
John Clayton (bassist)
John Travis Clayton Jr. is an American jazz and classical double bassist.-Music:John Travis Clayton Jr. began seriously undertaking the study of double bass at age 16, studying with bass legend Ray Brown...

. Hamilton and Clayton both encouraged Krall to move to Los Angeles to study under Ray Brown and others.

During 1990 - 1993 the "Legendary Oscar Peterson Trio" reunited, with Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis and Ray Brown, with either Bobby Durham or Jeff Hamilton added on drums.
Albums of this group earned no less than 4 Grammy Award.
In May 1993 this group ended, while Oscar Peterson suffered a severe stroke.

Ray played for a time with the "Quartet" with Monty Alexander, Milt Jackson and Mickey Roker.
After that he toured again with his own trio, with several young pianists like Benny Green, Geoff Keeezer and Larry Fuller.
The last edition of the Ray Brown Trio was that with pianist Larry Fuller and drummer George Fludas.
With that trio he continued to perform until his death in 2002; he died in his sleep, after having played golf, before a show in Indianapolis
Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...


Probably his last recorded show was in Europe, during the Bern Jazz Festival, on May 4, 2002, with Larry Fuller and Kariem Riggins.
This show was recorded and is now around on bootleg DVD or 2-CD, as always he was in Olympic shape.

In 2003, Brown was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame
Down Beat
Down Beat is an American magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond" to indicate its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois...


External links