It’s nearly 80 minutes of musical
brilliance, presented by 17 songs. The Swiss Radio Jazz
Series presents Ray Charles Orchestra, Zurich 1961
(The Montreaux Jazz Label, 2016).
It’s a legendary
concert recording featuring a young Ray Charles at the start
of a tour that was a turning point in his career. The
performers are Ray Charles, piano and vocal; trumpets:
Marcus Belgrave, Wallace Davenport, Phil Guilbeau and John
Hunt; trombones: Henderson Chambers, Dickie Wells and Keg
Johnson; Rudy Powell, alto saxophone; Hank Crawford, alto
saxophone and band leader; David Newman, tenor saxophone and
flute; Don Wilkerson, tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper,
baritone saxophone; Elbert “Sonny” Forriest, guitar; Edgar
Willis, bass; Bruno Carr, drums; and Quincy Jones, arranger
of several tracks. Background vocalists, the Raelettes, are
Priscilla “Pat” Lyles, Margie Hendricks, Gwen Berry and
Set highlights include “Happy Faces,”
“My Baby,” “Sticks and Stones,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit
the Road, Jack” and “I Believe to My Soul.”
sings his signature, “Georgia on My Mind,” Newman answers
each vocal phrase with a response from the flute. Charles
sings with a range that goes from whispery to churchy, from
tender to punchy – finding the right voice for the music.
This recording is considered a landmark in the career of
Ray Charles. The big band may have been the ideal platform
to deliver jazz, done Ray’s style by mixing his brand of
soul, and rhythm and blues.
Ray Charles is one of the
most versatile musicians to achieve fame, his sound touching
on several mainstream genres, including blues, gospel, rock
and country. And his following is just as diverse,
transcending ethnicity, politics, nationality or other
humanity divisions. He was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1930.
He lost his vision as a child and was made by his mother to
continue to do chores, to learn how to care for himself
despite the handicap. He became an orphan at age 15, but
didn’t let that stop him. After attending the Florida State
School for the Deaf and Blind, he moved to Seattle,
Washington, where he made his first recording.
Ray Charles Orchestra, Zurich 1961 is vintage Ray