Ray Blue: Work

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At first this seemed to be a straightforward session – nothing too stretching, the band going through its repertoire of good time, accessible material – but then I was in for a surprise, especially on the ballads.

Blue’s attractive composition My Friend And I Took A Walk and That’s All (on which his tenor takes on the sound of a baritone at times) caught the attention, as did an impressively lively version of Jimmy Smith’s Mellow Mood, with slick trombone from Ron Wilkins. There is a great rendition of George Coleman’s Amsterdam After Dark with more from Wilkins and soulful guitar from Jeff Barone.

A swinging Our Day Will Come had a member of our household joining in, recalling Ruby & The Romantics from 1962. A mid-tempo take on Everything Happens To Me features Blue’s big solid sound, fluid and easy, supported well by pianist Sharp Radway and the Burrell-influenced guitar of Barone, the whole rhythm section moving along effortlessly.

The set concludes with a slower reprise of That’s All, this time a duet between Blue and guest pianist Kirk Lightsey. The tenor is less sculptured than a Rollins or Houston Person, but Blue shows off his deep melodic tone to good effect, playing slightly behind the beat.

Altogether it’s a bit of a mixed bag but in the main, an enjoyable album, recommended for those who like to hear a saxophonist firmly in the tradition of strong tenor playing with an easy relaxed swing.

Discography
Work; Lift Every Voice And Sing; My Friend And I Took A Walk; Sweet Emma; That’s All; Mellow Mood; Amsterdam After Dark; Teach Me Tonight; Don’t Know Why; Our Day Will Come; Everything Happens To Me; Attitude; That’s All (duo) (64.11)
Blue (ts); Sharp Radway (p); Jeff Barone (g); Essiet Okon Essiet (b); Steve Johns (d); Ron Wilkins (tb); Kirk Lightsey (p); Benito Gonzalez (p); Belden Bullock (b); Neil Clark (pc).
Jazzheads JH1235