Ray Brown, 1926 – 2002
Starting with piano at age eight, Ray Brown has been an unbelievably-active concert player and recording artist. His first big break came when Dizzy Gillespie hired him for his band in the early ’40’s. Ray was working with many of the founders of Be Bop: Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Bud Powell, et al. He started his own trio with Hank Jones and Charlie Smith. Brown married Ella Fitzgerald, with whom he often toured.
Impresario Norman Granz pressed Brown into service to fill a last-minute vacancy and he remained with the tour for 18 years. Perhaps he is best known for his 20 year stint with the elegant Oscar Petersen Trio, which took him to scores of cities around the world. He was the “first call” bassist for nearly all the top nightclub acts including Frank Sinatra. He moved to LA in the late ’60’s, directed the Monterey Jazz Festival for two years, and was active in countless other musical endeavors. In 1974 he formed The LA Four with Shelley Manne, Laurindo Almeida, and Bud Shank. Mercury and Verve recordings, both his own and those with Petersen, contain some of his best work.
Photograph by Roger Kallins. Courtesy of Patricia Darlington.