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Ray Brown was a Grammy Award-winning double-bassist who played a leading role in defining the modern jazz rhythm.
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In 1945 Brown arrived in New York City, and during his first night visited Fifty-Second Street--"Swing Street," a mob-controlled thoroughfare lined with various jazz clubs. That evening he encountered pianist Hank Jones, a musical associate, who introduced him to Dizzy Gillespie. That same evening, Gillespie, prompted by Jones' recommendation, hired Brown without an audition. Attending the band's rehearsal the next day,
Brown--a 19-year-old musician still largely unfamiliar with many of bebop's innovators-- discovered that his fellow bandmembers were Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Max Roach. "If I had known those guys any better I would have probably never gone to the rehearsal," admitted Brown in Jazz Journal International. "The only guy I knew something about was Dizzy because some of his records had filtered down through the south where I'd been playing with a territory band." The group's leader, however, immediately recognized the talent of his young bassist. As Gillespie commented, in his memoir To Be Or Not to Bop, "Ray Brown, on bass, played the strongest, most fluid and imaginative bass lines in modern jazz at the time, with the exception of Oscar Pettiford." Shortly afterward, Gillespie added Detroit-born vibraphonist Milt Jackson. In Jazz Masters of the Forties, Brown recounted his early years with Jackson: "We were inseparable. They called us twins."
In 1945 Brown appeared with Gillepsie at Billy Berg's night club in Hollywood, California, an engagement which, with the exception of a small coterie of bebop followers, failed to generate a favorable response from west coast listeners. In Gillespie's memoir To Be Or Not to Bop, Brown summarized the band's Hollywood stint: "The music wasn't received well at all. They didn't know what we were playing; they didn't understand it." During the winter of 1946, Gillespie returned to New York and opened at Clark Monroe's Spotlite on 52nd Street with a band consisting of Brown, Milt Jackson, Stan Levey, Al Haig, and alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt. In To Be Or Not to Bop, Brown modestly described his role in the sextet, "I was the least competent guy in the group. And they made something out of me." In May of 1946, the sextet recorded for the Musicraft label, cutting the sides such as "One Bass Hit"--featuring Brown's bass talents-- and "Oop Bop Sh' Bam,' and "That's Earl Brother." On Feb 5, 1946, Brown took part in one of Charlie Parker's sessions for the Dial label, recording such numbers as "Diggin' Diz."
In 1946 Gillespie formed his second big band, using the same six- member line-up. On February 22, 1946, Brown appeared with Gillespie's big band for a RCA/Victor session organized by pianist and jazz critic Leonard Feather. As Feather wrote in his work Inside Jazz, "Victor wanted an all-star group featuring some of the Esquire winners, so we used J.C. Heard on drums and Don Byas on tenor, along with Dizzy's own men--Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, and Al Haig--and the new guitarist from Cleveland, Bill de Arango." The date produced the numbers "52nd Street Theme," "Night in Tunisia," "Ol' Man Rebop," and "Anthropology." Between May and July of 1946, Brown appeared on such Gillespie recordings as "Our Delight," "Things To Come," and "Rays Idea" (co-written with Gil Fuller). In November of the same year, he cut the classic Gillespie side "Emanon."
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