- Brown, Raymond Matthews
▪ 2003“Ray”American jazz musician (b. Oct. 13, 1926, Pittsburgh, Pa.— d. July 2, 2002, Indianapolis, Ind.), played bass with a long parade of swing- and bop-era greats on more than 2,000 recordings, on worldwide Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) concert tours, as a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio, and then as leader or coleader of small and large ensembles. His harmonic ingenuity, strong bass tone, and brilliant technique even at the most difficult tempos combined to provide a stimulating rhythmic foundation, and he was a fluent, skillful soloist even on his first recordings. Brown began playing bass in high school in Pittsburgh. He was just 19 years old when he joined the pioneering bebop big band that trumpet great Dizzy Gillespie formed in 1946; Gillespie featured him in the recordings “One Bass Hit” and “Two Bass Hit.” Brown joined JATP in 1947 and toured with the show for 18 years, which included his marriage (1948) to and divorce (1952) from JATP singer Ella Fitzgerald. For 15 of those years he performed with Oscar Peterson, at first in a duo and then, from 1952, in a trio. The Oscar Peterson Trio accompanied stars ranging from Louis Armstrong to the modernists Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. Throughout most of the 1950s, Brown was voted the most popular of all jazz bassists in annual Playboy, Down beat, and Metronome magazine polls. He tired of constant touring and in 1966 settled in Los Angeles, where he became active in film and television studios (he played in The Merv Griffin Show band) and in the music business as an artists' manager and songwriter—his tune “Gravy Waltz” had won a Grammy in 1963. By the mid-1970s he was touring again, this time with the L.A. Four, a group of top West Coast-style veterans. He then coled groups with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and in the 1980s he began leading his own trios, which featured popular younger pianists such as Monty Alexander, Gene Harris, Benny Green, and Geoff Keezer. He was on tour with the Ray Brown Trio when he died.
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