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26 February 2014

Ray Charles In Paris (1963)

From 22 to 28 May 1963 Ray Charles was back at the Olympia Theater for a new series of concerts*. For all seven days the venue was totally sold out. "Members of the Hot Club de France distributed pink fliers at the theater hailing Mr. Charles as a true jazz artist in the tradition of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington," the New York Times' Paris correspondent reported on 24 May.

Band leader and trumpet player Wallace
Davenport, Ray Charles, and Vic Ash. 
David Fathead Newman was missing in the Orchestra's line-up. He had been arrested for drug possession a few days before by the British police. Later that week he joined the group again in Paris, but he didn't make it to the concerts because his place in the band was already taken by an English sub on tenor saxophone: Vic Ash, the first white cat ever to play in Ray's band (don't miss his autobiography, I Blew It My Way).
Phil Guilbeau, on trumpet of course, had to fill in Fathead's flute parts on Georgia On My Mind.

Some TV footage of the 1963 French tour has survived; see this.

One or more of the concerts were aired by Europe 1, and were captured on tape. As it looks now, the following tunes have survived (in poor to reasonably fair quality):
  1. Flying Home (Ray Charles Orchestra)
  2. Unidentified instrumental (alto solo by Ray Charles)
  3. Let The Good Times Roll
  4. Margie
  5. You Don't Know Me
  6. Hide Nor Hair
  7. In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)
  8. Marie
  9. Careless Love
  10. Don't Set Me Free (ft. Margie Hendricks)
  11. My Bonnie
  12. Georgia On My Mind (Phil Guilbeau - tp)
  13. Just A Little Lovin'
  14. Unchain My Heart
  15. My Baby (I Love Her, Yes I Do) (ft. Margie Hendricks)
  16. Hit The Road Jack
  17. You Are My Sunshine
In this case the numbers, of course, do not represent any setlist order. Flying Home (#1) is the tune written by Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and Eddie DeLange; this is the only known live version by the Ray Charles band. Tune #2 is the same unidentified composition as known from the 1963 O Gênio concerts in São Paulo (i.e. #15 in this article).
As I write this, #7 (a splendid 9-minute long In The Evening), #10 (Don't Set Me Free), and #17 (You Are My Sunshine) are the earliest known recorded live versions of these songs.

The band in Paris, 1963.
Read this for the story behind this photo.
Musicians: Wallace Davenport (band leader), Oliver Beener, Phil Guilbeau, John Hunt - trumpets; Henderson Chambers, James Lee Harbert, Keg Johnson, Julian Priester - trombones; Hank Crawford, Buddy Pearson - alto saxophones); Vic Ash, James Clay - tenor saxophones; Leroy Cooper - baritone saxophone; Wilbert Hogan - drums; Sonny Forriest - guitar; Edgar Willis - bass. The Raelettes: Gwen Berry, Margie Hendricks, Pat Moseley Lyles, Darlene McCrea.

*Special thanks to Joël Dufour for many details in this article.

25 February 2014

Ray Charles Band Augmented By Moscow Symphony Ork (2000)

The band with a string section
at the Hollywood Bowl in '61
(from a '62 concert souvenir brochure,
 photo by Howard Morehead;
coll. T. Sunseri).
On September 10, 1961 Ray Charles played with an 'extra-augmented' orchestra (57 musicians, including strings) and The Raelettes at the Hollywood Bowl, at a special "Salute To Genius" concert.

Unfortunately, nothing of this show was recorded.

But almost 40 years later, on 30 October 2000, the Ray Charles Orchestra performed in a sold-out Moscow concert hall - together with a local symphony orchestra. The combination was  conducted by drummer Peter Turre.

An "energetic and vivacious Charles, 70, enthralled the crowd," Russian television station RTR reported.

RTR's Channel 1 aired the show. A VHS-copy of this program has survived:
  1. Intro
  2. Busted
  3. Georgia On My Mind
  4. Let's Get Away From It All
  5. If You Go Away
  6. Almost Like Being In Love
  7. Hey Girl
  8. Blues For Big Scotia
  9. A Song For You
  10. All I Ever Need Is You
  11. Intro Raelettes (by RC)
  12. Hit The Road Jack
  13. I Can't Stop Loving You
  14. What'd I Say
  15. Outro
Concert: here.

  Drummer/conductor Peter Turre, at a rehearsal for the symphony gig.  

19 February 2014

Ray Charles Sings Ring Of Fire At Opening Of New Ole Opry (1974)

Video still.
In 1974 the Grand Ole Opry moved from the Ryman Theatre in downtown Nashville to the new Grand Ole Opry House, several miles to the east of the city.
To carry on the tradition of the Ryman, a six-foot circle of oak was cut from the center of the old theater's stage and inlaid into center stage at the new venue.
Exactly at that spot, most probably on or around opening night (March 16), but without any audience present, Ray Charles was filmed performing Ring Of Fire. He sang and played piano live, probably using a specially produced orchestra tape, enriched with some prominent slide guitar.
The clip possibly was part of the opening show, where - God forbid, as this source stated it - also "sitting U.S. President Richard Nixon [...] played a few songs on the piano".