Ray Brown did it again with the fourth installment in his Some of My Best Friends Are… series, spotlighting some of the hottest trumpet players around and producing one of the finest trumpet-fronted small group recordings to come down the jazz pike in a while. Featuring a six-pack of hornmen ranging from octogenarian Clark Terry to youngsters Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton, this CD alternately cooks and simmers, with the ballads especially standing out in their spaciousness and beauty.
The fifth in Ray Brown’s series of recordings pairing his working trio with several different musicians from the same family of instruments (although one volume was exclusively singers) features a half-dozen guitarists, ranging from fellow Oscar Peterson alumni Herb Ellis (who worked with Brown in the pianist’s most famous trio) and Ulf Wakenius to veteran Kenny Burrell, as well as seasoned players like John Pizzarelli and Bruce Forman and the rising star Russell Malone. Each song sounds as if the group could be a working quartet, due to the great interaction between the trio and each guest.
As a follow-up to bassist Ray Brown’s previous record in which he collaborated with several of his favorite pianists, Some of My Best Friends Are…The Sax Players features six major saxophonists (tenors Joe Lovano, Ralph Moore, Joshua Redman and Stanley Turrentine plus altoists Benny Carter and Jesse Davis) on two songs apiece with his regular trio. Although more than 60 years separate the ageless Carter from Redman, each of the saxes originally developed their own voice in the straight-ahead jazz tradition. Highlights of the colorful set include Benny Carter’s playful rendition of “Love Walked In,” Moore’s cooking solo on “Crazeology” (a Benny Harris bop classic which the record mistakenly lists as written by Bud Freeman), Davis ripping through “Moose the Mooche” and Turrentine’s romp on the blues “Port of Rico.”
What does a bass player do when he’s recording an album as a leader? Surely not an hour’s worth of bass solos! Ray Brown solved the bass player’s dilemma with a series of recordings under the Some of My Best Friends Are… heading. This 1998 release is the third in the series, following the earlier Some of My Best Friends Are…Piano Players and Some of My Best Friends Are…Sax Players, and it’s a gem. Featuring a sextet of fine vocalists, ranging from the well-established to the unknown, this CD is a class act from beginning to end.
On his Telarc disc, Ray Brown teams up with five different piano players but, rather than this being a tribute to the veteran bassist (who has solo space on every selection), the CD ends up being a celebration of the great Oscar Peterson because Benny Green, Dado Moroni, and Geoff Keezer have, to various degrees, based their styles on Peterson’s, but the indivual standout is actually Ahmad Jamal, who had never previously recorded with Brown.