Ray Brown: Lady Be Good

The beginning of NPR’s bio of bassist Ray Brown does a good job of quickly defining who he was — and the company he kept:

Grammy Award-winning double-bassist Ray Brown was a leader in defining the modern jazz rhythm section — in addition to being a first-rate soloist. His unique dynamic and innate sense of swing graced performances by Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and countless others.

Bebop was great music, but it could be   intellectual and  inaccessible. Brown’s allmusic bio, which is on the same page as Brown’s discography, hints at a player who wasn’t as challenging to listeners as many who played in his era:

The huge and comfortable sound of Ray Brown’s bass was a welcome feature on bop-oriented sessions for over a half-century.

Brown was married to Ella Fitzgerald from 1947 to 1952. This is from his obituary in The New York Times, which ran on July 4, 2002:

Mr. Brown won numerous critics’ and listeners’ popularity polls, and was regularly included among the half-dozen or so greatest of all jazz bassists, along with Oscar Pettiford, Charles Mingus, Milt Hinton, and Jimmy Blanton, whose performances with Duke Ellington he counted among his greatest influences.

Here are Five O’Clock Whistle and Things Ain’t What They Used to BeKevin Mahogany’s vocal on Yardbird Suite hints at rap and hip-hop styles that still were decades in the future.

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