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10 June 2010

Ray Charles Live In Marciac (1995, 1997, 1999)

1995 program. Collection Joël Dufour.
On 7 October 1995, directed by Frank Cassenti, France 3 aired Jazz In Marciac 1995, "accompagné par Ray Charles's Rhythm Section and The French All Stars", a 53m40s live concert recording of Ray Charles, playing with an "all-French" orchestra. The concert was taped on August 7. Source: Ina, ID CPC95006350.

When Ray started I Believe To My Soul, he asked for a "Muddy Waters" tempo from the guitar player, and even made some Muddy sounds to illustrate it (he did something similar at the 1995 Tramps concert).

The setlist was (cf. comments):
  1. Busted
  2. Georgia On My Mind
  3. Mississipi Mud
  4. How Long Has This Been Going On
  5. The Good Life
  6. If I Could
  7. Smack Dab In The Middle
  8. I Can't Stop Loving You
  9. A Song For You
  10. I Believe To My Soul  
  11. What'd I Say
The line-up of the "all French orchestra" was: Jacques 'Kako' Bessot, Pierre Drevet, Eric Giausseran, Tony Russo - trumpets;  Guy Arbion, Bernard Camoin, Jean-Louis Damant, Alex Perdigon - trombones;  Hervé Meschinet, Michel Gaucher - alto saxophones; Pierre Mimran, André Villeger - tenor saxophones; Gilles Miton - baritone saxophone. Ray's rhythm section: Peter Turre - drums; Steve Gregory - guitar; Curtis Ohlson - bass. Ray's bandleader Al Jackson conducted the group in Marciac.

L'Express from 5 October 1995 describes the opening sequence: "Après un passage éclair au volant d'une voiture, Ray Charles, lunettes noires, sourire aux lèvres, est l'invité prestigieux du 18e Festival de Jazz de Marciac (Gers). De What'd I Say à It's All Right, en passant par Georgia On My Mind, il fait swinguer son piano au rythme de ses plus grands succès. Du déjà-vu à revoir absolument."

The "JIM" festival, Ray's concert and some interview sequences were covered by the France 2 News on 8 August (Ina, ID CAB95043450) and by the France 3 News on 11 August 1995 (Ina, ID  CAC95044298):

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Photo by Philippe Bataille.
On 12 August 1997 the Marciac festival presented the Genius in a "Giants Of Jazz" setting. According to this review the concert was mostly a disaster. The line-up included Leroy Cooper, David Newman, Johnny Griffin, Phil Woods, Bobby Durham, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, and Kenny Carr.
A few hours before the concert the band had come together for a rehearsal session in Auch (15 miles from Marciac). A journalist of Le Monde was present, and described the session as "sublime".
Concert photos are here. Photos of Ray with his French girlfriend Arlette Kotchounian (who somehow seems to have been involved in organizing this concert) are here.
On 16 August 1997 France Inter (re?)broadcast a 1h15m radio show, presented by Francis André, with a "choice of the most important parts" of the 1997 Marciac festival, including parts of the Ray Charles concert. Source: Ina (ID 275270; DL R 19970816 FIT).

1995 or 1997?
Another (or the same?) tv program with Wynton Marsalis in the line-up was databased by Jazz On The Screen, dated in August 1995, also directed by Frank Cassenti. The same source mentions as personnel: Barney Wilen, tenor sax; Laurent de Wilde, piano; Gilles Naturel, acoustic double bass; Philippe Soirat, drums.

On August 10, 1999 the Jazz In Marciac festival announced a surprise package: the "Ray Charles Quartet - with special guest David 'Fathead' Newman". I have listened to an audience-taped recording of the concert:
  1. Intro
  2. The Way You Look Tonight
  3. Route 66
  4. A Song For You
  5. Hallelujah I Love Her So
  6. Georgia On My Mind
  7. Stranger In My Own Home Town
  8. It Had To Be You
  9. Outro: Straight No Chaser
Ray Charles - voc, elp; David Fathead Newman - ts, fl; Brad Rabuchin - g; Tom Fowler - b; Peter Turre - d; Georges Arvanitas - p.

Ray stayed at his keyboard to make room for Georges Arvanitas, who originally was only invited to play piano during Fathead's set. Ray knew Georges from a TV Show with Michel Legrand, in 1982. Arvanitas later said that his most fond professional memory had been when Ray asked him to stay on stage and play with him too.

The show was uneventful, except for an incident described below, and a soaring rendition of  Stranger In My Own Home Town (#7). 

Here's a French review of the concert ("Ray Charles, bad boy in Marciac. Incidents, concert sublime mais écourté: le malentendu avec 'The Genius' continue"), describing yet another incident where Ray threatened to stop the concert if the filming wasn't stopped. But the author liked the show.
The incident even made it to an article in the New York Times, with the same kind of assessment: "[...] An occasion was lowered rather than risen to. The programming was imaginative: a one-off reunion with Charles's 1960s tenor saxophone soloist David (Fathead) Newman, a veteran with a beautiful franchise sound. The event had been much anticipated. However, a rider in Charles's contract prohibits taking performance photos. Being blind, he relies on what he calls his people', who guard his interests with vehemence, to police it. He cut off the band and said that his people were telling him that film was being exposed during his performance of Route 66. 'I'm supposed to get more money for filming,' he complained for all to hear. The audience deserved better, they had paid up to 300 francs ($50) a ticket. In addition, his people were unreliable. The photographers had put their cameras aside and were only listening to the 'Genius of Ray Charles'. Unsure, he hesitated and seemed to be considering ending the concert then and there. But he began again and it turned into something of a miracle. He performed Leon Russell's Song For You and Hoagy Carmichael's Georgia On My Mind with an extraordinary combination of musicianship and passion. Such emotion cannot be faked; so much creativity, such chops. It was obviously for real. There were goose-pimples, even a tear or two. It takes rare "genius" to switch from vulgar insensitivity to inspired, even divine, music so quickly. The best and the worst of America in a nutshell, it took an American to pull it off. And then to take it right back down again. After exactly 45 minutes, the letter of his contract fulfilled, he rose and said: 'I'm out of here'. He seemed to be getting even with somebody, though just who and why was not exactly clear. The audience, the organizers, the volunteer staff and the press were all visibly shaken. Faced, apparently, with 'show me the money' big-time U.S. show business, the provincial public whistled and jeered. Charles's techies began to dismantle his electric piano. They knew there would be no encores."


  1. I have the full concert, I ll upload it this week on youtube. here s the list of the songs he performed:

    I AM BUSTED (H. Howard),
    - GEORGIA ON MY MIND (H. Carmichael, S. Gorrell),
    - MISSISSIPI MUD (H. Barris, J. Cavanaugh),
    - HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON ? (G. et I. Gershwin),
    - GOOD LIFE(S. Distel, J. Broussolle),
    - IF I COULD (J. Milchberg, D. Robles, P. Simon),
    - SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE (C. Calwoun),
    - I CANT STOP LOVING YOU (D. Gibson),
    - A SONG FOR YOU (L. Russell),
    - I BELIEVE TO MY SOUL (R. Charles),
    - WHAT D'I SAY (R. Charles).

    it s 50min long

  2. Bob,
    Ray Charles a fait 3 apparitions au festival de Jazz de Marciac.
    Tu cites les 2 premiers (95 et 97 );Tu as le document relatant le 3e concert qui a eut lieu le 11? aout 99 (Ray Charles,bad boy in Marciac...etc) ou il y a eut des incidents avec les photographes ;A ce concert RC etait accompagne par sa rythmique de cette periode augmentee de Georges Arvanitas (k) et du regrette Dave Newmann.

    Le concert de 1997 a ete precede d'une repetition le 12/08/97 vers 18h30 rue Edgar Quinet à AUCH petite ville situee à une quinzaine de km de Marciac; il semble que la repetition fut sublime ("Le Monde" du 16 aout ).JPV