Ray Brown: The Telarc Years
Russell Malone: The thing that was so great about him, Franz, was every time I was ever on the stage with Ray, he always played every note like his life depended on it. In fact, the very last conversation I had with him—he called my house a few days before he died to coordinate some dates around the last record I did with him and Monty Alexander—we got the dates together and then for some reason I just felt like opening up to him and I told him how much I loved him. I told him how I felt about him and I told him how honored I was that I was able to be on the bandstand with him. I told him, ‘Man, you always play every note like your life depends on it.’ And he just laughed—you know that deep guttural laugh of his—and said, “You know, kid, you make the old man feel good.’ He said, ‘You make the old man feel good, and I will see you later on in the fall.’ That was the last conversation I had with him.
Geoff Keezer: Another thing I appreciated about Ray is that even though he had lived through some very hard times in America, racially, he didn’t carry any of that baggage with him. He didn’t care if you were white or black, or any other color you can think of. Ray didn’t carry any of that baggage. He was not bitter in anyway. Whatever he had to do internally to heal those wounds, he had done.
Monty Alexander: Ray Brown, as big and as famous and as great as he was, he was just a regular guy. That’s why I loved him.
Benny Green: ...[T]he proof is in the pudding. You hear that. It’s profound and inspiring to other musicians, but accessible to anyone. Yes, there’s a clarity there and a cohesiveness...there are no smoke and mirrors when it comes to Ray’s music. It’s so heartfelt, and as I said before, so honest, that it had a real power and directness to it.
Russell Malone: He loved good food. He always got dessert. I think during my time playing with Ray I might have put on ten pounds. Whenever we were on the road, we always ate and we always got dessert. Always got good meals, and we always sat around and laughed. Man, he told some of the filthiest jokes—they were funny—he had a great sense of humor, man!
That’s what the music is about, man. Ray Brown enjoyed life. He loved the music, but he was also passionate about life...I think as you get older, it starts to get deeper because you start to play your thoughts, you start to play your life. A guy like Ray Brown, he did all of that...it’s so necessary to get to meet people, to get to know people, to smell some flowers, to take some time and look at some trees, to look about at the stars and the sky. All of that’s life, man. If you don’t do that, if you don’t take advantage of these other aspects, then you really have nothing to play about, your music is shallow. I really do believe that. The older I get, the more that has become apparent to me.
On their loss.
Monty Alexander: [Note: Alexander dedicated his latest release, Impressions in Blue to Ray Brown] It’s [about] lingering memories of a man who was very much a part of my life, in a personal way too. And it’s the kind of music we were all about, and it’s a gesture of thanks. I wanted to remember him, and remind the people who know me that he meant so much to me. That our relationship was about happiness and joy, nothing too serious. It was serious business when we did our music, but a very happy outlook about life—we were laughing all the time. That’s what it was about. What can I say? I closed the album with this cowboy song. He and I used to laugh about the westerns and it’s sorta like a ridin’ off into the sunset thing, you know?
Geoff Keezer: He had wonderful stories. I miss those stories. It’s hard.
Elaine Martone: For me, working with him was an honor. Everything we did, it was a privilege and an honor to be in his presence. It really was. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.