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Jazz Cello

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Album Review

On the last day of August and the first day of September 1960, bassist Ray Brown recorded his third album for the Verve label, focusing most of his attention upon the cello while Joe Mondragon handled the bass. The 11-piece band on this date was conducted by arranger Russ Garcia and included reed players Paul Horn and Bob Cooper as well as pianist Jimmy Rowles. The results were typical of late-'50s West Coast mainstream jazz: familiar ballads and friendly, uplifting standards, tidily performed. Some of the tunes reach back to the 1920s, with "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" serving as a surprisingly hip link with vaudeville as Brown's pizzicato maneuverings are punctuated with punchy blasts from reeds and brass. If one takes the time to place this recording within an historical context, an impressive evolution reveals itself. The first bassist to cross over to cello on records in modern times is believed to have been Oscar Pettiford, while Fred Katz popularized the warm-toned instrument through his work with drummer Chico Hamilton. The progression of jazz cellists since then is impressive, from Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Percy Heath and Ron Carter to Abdul Wadud, David Holland, David Darling, David Eyges and Diedre Murray. By the first decade of the 21st century, an unprecedented number of improvising cellists had appeared, making Ray Brown's 1960 Jazz Cello album seem like a sunny little episode in the foundation of a fascinating modern tradition spanning several generations.


Born: 13 October 1926 in Pittsburgh, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The huge and comfortable sound of Ray Brown's bass was a welcome feature on bop-oriented sessions for over a half-century. He played locally in his native Pittsburgh in his early days. Arriving in New York in 1945, on his first day in town Brown met and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell. He was hired by Gillespie for his small groups and his big band; "One Bass Hit" and "Two Bass Hit" were early features, and he can be seen with Dizzy Gillespie in the 1947 film Jiving in...
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Jazz Cello, Ray Brown
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