Ray Charles – Swiss Radio Days Vol. 41/ Zurich 1961 – TCB

The jazzy side of Brother Ray…

Ray Charles – Swiss Radio Days Vol. 41/ Zurich 1961 – TCB 02412, 78:43 [Distr. by Naxos] (11/11/16) ****:

(Ray Charles – piano, vocals; Marcus Belgrave, Wallace Davenport, Phil Guilbeau, John Hunt – trumpets; Henderson Chambers, Dickie Wells, Keg Johnson – trombones; Rudy Powell – alto sax; Hank Crawford – alto sax, band leader; David “Fathead” Newman – tenor sax and flute; Don Wilkerson – tenor sax; Leroy Cooper – baritone sax; Elbert Forriest – guitar; Edgar Willis – bass; Bruno Carr – drums; Quincy Jones – arranger {#1, 2, 9-11, 17}. With the Raelettes: Pat Lyles, Margie Hendricks, Gwen Berry, and Darlene McCrea – vocals)

Although Ray Charles had been recording for Atlantic Records since 1957, his impact had primarily been in the United States as a rhythm-and-blues artist. In October, 1961, Ray took his full orchestra to Europe in order to expand his stature worldwide. At the beginning of the tour he played in Zurich on Oct. 18, 1961. As part of the Swiss Radio Days Series (now 41 volumes strong), TCB is releasing this date in great digitally-remastered sound.

Ray brought an outstanding orchestra to Europe. Four trumpets, three trombones, and a sax section featuring (band director) Hank Crawford, and fellow stalwarts: Fathead Newman and Don Wilkerson graced the stage. Providing the pulse for the band was the unheralded drummer, Bruno Carr, who had been mentored by Big Sid Catlett, and backed Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter. Six of the seventeen tracks presented that evening were arranged by Quincy Jones and others were from charts of Ernie Wilkins. This was a fit band ready to tackle the continent.

Ray’s big hits (“Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “I Believe to My Soul”) are covered here as well as solid jazz numbers ( “Along Came Betty,” “I Remember Clifford,” “Ghana,” and “Misty”). The band is tight on “Along Came Betty” with the horns both silky smooth and assertive. The Raelettes step up on “My Baby” and Margie Hendricks is a great foil for Ray. “Georgia” features Fathead Newman on flute floating above Charles’ vocal. Hank Crawford’s “Blue Stone” is straight-up big band jazz as Crawford’s alto wails.

One of Quincy Jones’ Big Band’s staples, “The Birth of a Band” stands up well for Ray’s orchestra as several band members trade off choruses. “I Believe to My Soul” is classic Charles with the Raelettes. On “Misty,” Hank Crawford’s alto sax solo steals the show and is one of the highlights of the entire set! The acoustics are more than passable for a radio recorded broadcast from 1961. It is the historic nature of this tour in Ray’s career that is of primary importance. A year later Ray Charles would tackle country and western music in his rise to show that there was little beyond his reach.

TrackList:
Happy Faces, Along Came Betty, My Baby, Sticks and Stones, Georgia on My Mind, Blue Stone, Margie, Hit the Road Jack, I Remember Clifford, Come Rain or Come Shine, Ghana, I Believe to My Soul, I’ve Got News for You, Misty, I Wonder, Ray Minor Ray

—Jeff Krow

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