Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz

Brother Ray's reduction of jazz to genius + soul doesn't allow for mediocrity in the genre, but nor does his 1960 session, here with bonuses


They don’t make jazz records like this now, but I wish they did. Charles is supported here by two versions of the Count Basie Orchestra – three if you count the three bonus tracks. He is firmly in jazz mode, with a healthy injection of blues.

On the original Impulse LP from 1960 he only sang on two selections, playing most of the songs on Hammond organ. The bonus tracks from a year earlier add three further vocals. On a selection of blues-based material he plays organ throughout, fashioning tasty improvised lines and, unlike Jimmy Smith who was a high flyer on Hammond B3 at the time, leaves the bass line to Eddie Jones.

Charles is on great vocal form on I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town, with the Basie band behind him blowing up a storm. This was one Basie did back in the 1940s and it hadn’t lost its appeal. On I’ve Got News For You, Charles is in top 12-bar blues mode and this one has the great line “I took you to a nightclub and the whole band knew your name.” He sings It Had To Be You in crooner mode and later whoops it up on Alexander’s Ragtime Band.

The Basie band minus the man himself provide those pristine ensemble backings; the great all-American rhythm section ensures a smooth swing and there are various reed and trumpet solos punched in.

Charles is in top form on everything, swinging the organ or singing. It’s straight-ahead stuff, nothing innovative, but just good, solid jazz and blues, played by masters. If we still had our star system, I would give it all five.

A brightly coloured jacket, orange vinyl and an appreciation on the back cover by Brian Morton all help to make this a most attractive release.

From The Heart; I’ve Got News For You; Moanin’; Let’s Go; One Mint Julep; It Had To Be You; Deed I Do; I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town; Stompin’ Room Only; Mister C; Strike Up The Band; Birth Of The Blues; Alexander’s Ragtime Band (43.45)
Charles (v, org) accompanied by three big bands including Clark Terry, Thad Jones, Joe Newman (t); Frank Wess (as); Frank Foster (ts); Freddie Greene (g); Eddie Jones (b); Sonny Payne, Roy Haynes (d). NYC, 26, 27 December 1960 & 23 June 1959.
20th Century Masterworks Limited Edition Colored Vinyl 350239