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100 Jazz Profiles
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
Bassist. By far the most influential bassist of the second half of the 20th century, and still a major figure at the start of the 21st, Ray Brown spring to international fame with the Dizzy Gillespie, went on to accompany (and marry) Ella Fitzgerald, became a member of the great Oscar Peterson trio, and has subsequently fronted his own groups from the 1970s. He is one of the most prolifically recorded bassists in jazz, having made discs with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker and Stan Getz.

He began his career in Pittsburgh
before joining the band of Snookum Russell. Arriving in New York, he found a job with Gillespie, ending up on a West Coast tour with Charlie Parker, and subsequently becoming a founder member of Dizzy's bebop big band. He had speed, accuracy, a great beat, and quickly latched on to the new harmonic ideas of bebop.

He left to play with Ella Fiutzgerald
and soon became a regular bassist on Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic Concerts. There he first played with Oscar Peterson, initially as a duo, then a trio with guitarist Herb Ellis, and finally with drummer Ed Thigpen. On leaving Peterson, he settled in Los Angeles, playing in the studios, and with the L. A. Four, before forming a touring group with Milt Jackson, with whom he had earlier been a founder member of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

In due course
he struck out on his own, mainly leading a trio, with piano and drums (or occasionally piano and guitar), as well as fronting the group 'Superbass' in which he shares the front line with other bassists including John Clayton and Christian McBride. His trio is one of the finest exponents of mainstream small group jazz working on the international circuit, as proven by his many albums. Ray Brown sadly passed away in July 2002.

Further Reading:

Ray Brown: Ray Brown's Bass Method (Edited by Hal Leonard) (New York, Hal Leonard) 2001 Book for bass players, in which Ray tells all the secrets of his great technique.

Recommended CD:

Ray Brown Trio Live At Sculler's (Telarc CD 83405)
Suggested Track: Freddie Freeloader

Website Links:
A Fireside Chat with Ray Brown

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