Q (10/93, p.118) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...[THE GREAT RAY CHARLES is] jazzy instrumentals, late night romantic ballads or gorgeous rearrangements of old classics...[and] established Charles as much more than an R&B hitmaker..."
Personnel: Ray Charles (piano, celeste); David "Fathead" Newman (saxophone); Emmott Dennis (baritone saxophone); Joseph Bridgewater, John Hunt (trumpet); Roosevelt Sheffield, Oscar Pettiford (bass); William Peeples, Joe Harris (drums).
Producers: Ahmet Ertegun, Nesuhi Ertegun, Jerry Wexler.
Recorded at Atlantic Studios, New York, New York on April 30, 1956 and Capitol Studios, New York, New York on November 20, 1956. Includes original release liner notes by Gary Kramer and Leonard Feather.
Charles' first 2 jazz sessions complete in chronological order. THE GREAT RAY CHARLES was originally released on Atlantic (1259) in 1958. THE GENIUS AFTER HOURS was originally released on Atlantic Jazzlore (0464) in August 1961.
It's hard to go wrong with a Ray Charles album. However, fans of the man's beautifully expressive, bluesy voice may be in for a surprise with THE GREAT RAY CHARLES. An anomaly in the artist's huge discography, this disc is wholly instrumental, focusing on Charles' outstanding, jazz-influenced piano playing. The set is a mixture of standards ("The Man I Love," "Ain't Misbehavin'"), contemporary pieces (Horace Silver's "Doodlin'," Quincy Jones' "The Ray"), and several of Charles' own fine compositions.
The absence of this entertainment legend's pipes allows the listener to fully concentrate on Charles' skill as an ivory-tickler. The musician cites both Bud Powell and Nat Cole as influences, and his style hangs beautifully in the balance between technical proficiency and a clean, emotional approach. Backed by a spare combo, this is perfect dinnertime music. A quiet but swinging album, THE GREAT RAY CHARLES only adds to the multi-talented genius' deservedly huge reputation.
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