Ray Blue "WORK" (Jazzheads JH1235) Street Date: October 12, 2019
Ray Blue – Tenor Sax, Ron Wilkins – Trombone, Neil Clark – Percussion, Steve Johns – Drums, Essiet Okon Essiet – Bas,s Belden Bullock – Bass , Jeff Barone – Guitar, Sharp Radway – Piano, Kirk Lightsey – Piano, Benito Gonzalez – Piano
UPC – 009818123528
1. WORK 4:22
2. LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING 2:13
3. MY FRIEND AND I TOOK A WALK 4:17
4. SWEET EMMA 4:04
5. THAT’S ALL 8:25
6. MELLOW MOOD 5:05
7. AMSTERDAM AFTER DARK 6:46
8. TEACH ME TONIGHT 5:24
9. DON’T KNOW WHY 4:21
10. OUR DAY WILL COME 4:24
11. EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME 4:52
12. ATTITUDE 4:31
13. THAT’S ALL (DUO) 5:52
Total time: 64:11
The New York based tenor saxophonist Ray Blue, who has a deep tone and a melodic style, is featured on WORK, a set of accessible yet quietly creative music. The program mixes together three of his originals with surprising versions of standards and lesser known but superior jazz songs. He and Randy Klein, head of Jazzheads Music Group, worked diligently to achieve the appealing Old School feel and sound that Blue’s listeners want to hear.
Blue teams up with three pianists (Sharp Radway, Kirk Lightsey and Benito Gonzalez), guitarist Jeff Barone, bassist Essiet Okon Essiet, drummer Steve Johns and, on three songs apiece, the rambunctious trombonist Ron Wilkins and percussionist Neil Clark. Starting with the exuberant “Work,” the program includes such surprises as an uptempo transformation of “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” two versions of “That’s All” (including a duet with pianist Lightsey), a playful rendition of “Don’t Know Why,” and a cooking “Everything Happens To Me” which is normally taken as a slow ballad. Blue, displaying a large tone that almost sounds like a baritone in spots, is heard at his best on his original ballad “My Friend And I Took A Walk” and “Our Day Will Come” which benefits from a shuffle rhythm. Trombonist Wilkins is quite boisterous on Nat Adderley’s soulful “Sweet Emma,” the Jimmy Smith minor blues “Mellow Mood,” and George Coleman’s “Amsterdam After Dark.” Another highpoint is Blue’s “Attitude” which, after an energized and surprising melody, becomes a hot swinger that features the composer.
Ray Blue has been an important saxophonist for the past 20 years, leading his own CDs on a regular basis since 2001. Among those who he has worked with through the years have been John Gilmore, Art Davis, Ted Curson, Benny Powell, Eddie Henderson, Steve Turre, Wycliff Gordon, Bernard Purdie, Harold Mabern, Kirk Lightsey and the Sun Ra Arkestra. The saxophonist, who has appeared at many international jazz festivals, has also been an influential educator and is the founder of Cross-Cultural Connection, Inc. a non-profit organization that promotes jazz culture, performance and education.
WORK is one of Ray Blue’s most enjoyable outings to date, a melodic set that will appeal to a large audience, especially those who enjoy the Old School swinging jazz style and sound.