Ray Charles: Genius+Soul=Jazz

Arrangements for the singer by Quincy Jones, Ralph Burns and others transform his voice, with Burns's mastery breathtaking


Everybody likes Ray Charles, which is why the morass of his reissues is hard to disentangle. In a unique contradiction, one of Ray’s most effective jazz albums is Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music.

This one is on secure ground by including two more of his finest albums, each with what we might as well call a Quincy Jones band, even though other expert arrangers like Ralph Burns, Al Cohn, Johnny Acea and Ernie Wilkins joined in.

The albums are Genius+Soul=Jazz (From the Heart to Birth Of The Blues) and The Genius Of Ray Charles (Let The Good Times Roll to Come Rain Or Shine – the latter track a classic performance both by Ray and the accompanying and soloing Bob Brookmeyer.

As with another album I just reviewed (Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones: The Swinging Miss “D”), the singer is virtually reshaped by Quincy Jones. Ray fits smoothly with any of the arrangers and Ralph Burns’s writing, here aimed at a slightly more commercial market, is also classic. Ralph provided the charts for the tracks from Just For A Thrill to the final Come Rain and his mastery takes one’s breath away throughout, with the final track probably the most effective of all Ray’s recordings.

Ray’s own band was always impelled more by enthusiasm than by good technique, and it was a couple of divisions below the standard offered here.

(1) From The Heart; I’ve Got News For You; Moanin’; (2) Let’s Go; One Mint Julep; Outskirts Of Town; (1) Stompin’ Room Only; Mister C; Strike Up The Band; (2) Birth Of The Blues; (3) Let The Good Times Roll; It Had To Be You; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; Two Years Of Torture; When Your Lover Has Gone; Deed I Do; (4) Just For A Thrill; You Won’t Let Me Go; Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me; Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’; Am I Blue; Come Rain Or Shine (76.11)
Ray Charles (p, v) with:
(1) Clark Terry, Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Phil Gilbeau, Snooky Young (t); Henry Coker, Al Grey, Urbie Green, Benny Powell (tb); Marshall Royal, Frank Wess (as); Frank Foster, Billy Mitchell (ts); Charlie Fowlkes (bar); Freddie Green (g); Eddie Jones (b); Sonny Payne (d). NYC, 26 December 1960.
(2) Clark Terry, Joe Wilder, John Frosk, Phil Gilbeau, Jimmy Nottingham (t); Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green, Keg Johnson, George Matthews (tb); George Dorsey, Earle Warren (as); Bud Johnson, Seldon Powell (ts); Haywood Henry (bar); Sam Herman (g); Joe Benjamin (b); Roy Haynes (d). NYC, 27 December 1960.
(3) Collective personnel: Marcus Belgrave, Clark Terry, Ernie Royal, Joe Newman, Snooky Young (t); Melba Liston, Al Grey, Quentin Jackson, Tom Mitchell (tb); Marshall Royal, Frank Wess (as); David Newman, Paul Gonsalves, Zoot Sims, Billy Mitchell (ts); Benny Crawford, Charlie Fowlkes (bar); Freddie Green (g); Edgar Willis, Eddie Jones (b); Teagle Fleming, Charlie Persip (d). NYC, 23 June 1959.
20th Century Masterworks 170058