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  • Ray Brown (2011)

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    Ray Brown is a composer, trumpeter player, big band leader, arranger and author.

    Ray was born, soon after the end of WW II, into a musical family in Oceanside, New York. Although Ray himself later took music degrees at Ithaca College—alma mater to the whole family—and at Long Island University, he insists that his real musical education began early at home and continued there for a dozen or so years. Following a dozen years as vibist and marimba player with Xavier Cugat, Ray's father, Glenn, served as a high-school band director for over 25 years; he was also a pioneer of jazz education at the scholastic level, and for several years ran a jazz camp in New Hampshire. Both Glenn and his wife, Marie, had musical degrees from Ithaca College—even if Marie's "day job" was teaching English.

    They passed on their love of music to their three sons, Glenn jr, Steve (both musical graduates of—where else?—Ithaca College) and Ray himself.

    Ray credits guitarist Steve especially with interesting him in jazz, Steve playing young Ray recordings by Cannonball Adderley or Bill Evans from the time they got up until they left for school, and on their return home Barney Kessel or Paul Desmond, followed by encouragement to play together, Ray on his trumpet. In later years, Steve and Ray were to co-write "An Introduction to Jazz Improvisation".

    Following college, Ray worked steadily as a trumpeter and arranger for the likes of Stan Kenton, Bill Watrous, Bill Berry, and the Frank Capp-Nat Pierce Juggernaut. With Kenton (whom Ray always refers to respectfully as "Stanley"), he sat next to Mike Vax (currently director of the Stan Kenton Alumni Band.

    Ray is a recipient of several NEA grants for composition and performance, and a short list of those he's performed with includes Mundell Lowe, Leroy Vinnegar, Thad Jones, Jimmy Heath, Steve Gadd, and Billy Hart. He also conducted the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra for Roy Hargrove's 1999 recording "Moment to Moment"

    For over three decades, Ray has been Head of Jazz Studies at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. In his "spare time", he leads the ambiguously titled Ray Brown's Great Big Band: is it a great big-band, or is it a great-big band? Ray smiles enigmatically and indicates a non-specific affirmative. A firm believer that the laborer is worthy of his hire, he refuses to let the band perform unless people are "being paid properly", which works out to be about three times a year, including a regular date, sold out for 20 years, on the Monday preceding Thanksgiving. You can also find them at local festivals, including the big one, Monterey. Go along, buy a ticket: you'll be ensuring that the musicians are properly paid, and that the music continues to go around and around.
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Kayak Kayak Brown Cats Productions
    # 2 Full Faith and Credit Debut She's Gone Brown Cats Productions
    # 3 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Impressions of Point Lobos The Autobahn 500 Brown Cats Productions
    # 4 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Kayak I've Never Been in Love Before Brown Cats Productions
    # 5 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Impressions of Point Lobos It's a Quiet Thing Brown Cats Productions
    # 6 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Kayak Tricrotism Brown Cats Productions
    # 7 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Kayak Song of No Regrets Brown Cats Productions
    # 8 Ray Brown's Great Big Band Kayak Seven Steps to Heaven Brown Cats Productions
    Book Roger Kahn, "The Boys of Summer"
    Luxury Item A piano
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