Ray Brown Trio – Live at Starbucks

Ray Brown TrioLive at Starbucks
Ray Brown Trio
(Telarc – 2001)
by Phyllis A. Lodge

On this newest release, Ray Brown re-establishes himself as a leading exponent of bass virtuosity. On this CD, the Ray Brown Trio (with pianist Geoff Keezer and drummer Karriem Riggens) presses out a live, sizzling performance. For the knowledgeable jazz aficianado, the name Ray Brown, and the term master bassist are synonymous; for the newer listener, Brown is a mind-blowing baptism into this indefinable, unpredictable art form we’ve labeled jazz.

My early memories of Ray Brown’s ringing, melodic “bassism” herald back to the 1960’s and his days with legendary pianist, Oscar Peterson. With drummer Ed Thigpen completing the triad, the three men were called simply The Trio. Without question, there’s far more encircling Brown’s dazzling musical path, but today we want to talk about the stunning live performance by the RAY BROWN TRIO at the Starbucks in Seattle.

RAY BROWN TRIO live at Starbucks is an absolute thrill. This performance introduces me to Geoff Keezer’s piano, and the man puts the “multi” in multi-dimensional keyboard. Keezer’s ideas are limitless, incessantly flowing, original and unpredictable. Equally as stunning in performance is drummer Karriem Riggins, whose percussive genius is anchored within the listener’s immediate earshot. Yet he blends tastefully with his musical associates. As for the music itself, each selection lends a welcome supply to the ever abundant, impressive library of jazz composition. Ray Brown and his associates work impeccably with another in a balance that models true harmony in every sense of the word.

The colossal Ray Brown’s Live Starbucks performance, rebirths the phrase “bottomless cup”, although I am reminded of one of Forrest Gump’s poignant quips: “I guess some days there just aren’t enough rocks”; to which I add: “I guess some days, there just aren’t enough adjectives.” So, we’ll just sample each of the selections on the CD very briefly and urge you to make room in your collection for this performance.

Up There. Brown’s opening blues original has a bluesy, high-energy “holiday-music” appeal. Browns’ bass hums with its traditional clarity and charm. Keezer and Riggens artfully encircle the bass master, in a powerful, exciting opening. When I Fall In Love. This classic, yearning ballad becomes a down-home, gutsy affirmation. Keezer’s solo won me right over, followed up by Brown’s clear, warm and articulate bass lines. Brown Bossa is a rollicking celebration of sound that is a perfect tribute to the spirit of blues, bossa and hi-life. Our Delight is a strait-ahead, delightful deception frequently found in traditional jazz. It sounds and feels smooth, but don’t be fooled. It burns and pumps underneath, like a musical stew in a constantly threatening state of bubbling over.

Lament. Softly bitter-sweet, this piece is a tasteful balance of Keeser’s meticulously sculpted piano solo and Ray Brown’s mastery of melody. Brown’s bass hums: “Wound you take the wings from a bird, so that it cant fly?” and “..there may be other songs to sing…” A true masterpiece. Mainstream. Riggins percussion ignites some stuff that put me in a mindless stupor. The audience went wild, shouting, hooting and whistling. Love You Madly will “…put a spell on you.’ The live audience snaps along in unison and actually lends a mesmerizing dynamic to Ray Brown’s beautifully punctuated solo. Caravan evokes visions of veiled women whirling in dizzying crimsons and fiery streaks, finger cymbals ringing and buzzing, in this traditional selection from the Ellington songbook. Steady yourself. This House Is Empty Now/I Should Care, witnesses the infinite genius in jazz improvisation. Keezer calls up some Bach-type counter-point inventions back to back with salsa in a spicy gumbo. The audience freaked out, too! Lester Leaps In. Three masters leaping in this Prez original, and then drummer Riggens will make you fall out on the floor.

Remember a couple of months back I nearly fainted listening to Johnny Griffin’s drummer, Alvin Queen? Well, both Queen and Riggens must eat the same breakfast cereal! The jazz community definitely has some powerful fresh blood circulating in the mix. Starbucks Blues. Well, brother Ray “bookends” the set with a final blues original, leaving us with some nourishing sound to reflect on. Thanks Ray Brown for this CD, your impeccable choice of musicians in Geoff Keezer and Karriem Riggins, and your continuing years of magical music. I quote from the CD liner notes:
Jazz bonds this room into a musical community, leaning together toward the stage as if we could touch the sounds pulsing around us. The lines between musicians and listeners blur as the audience claps along, nods and calls out encouragement. There can be no reserve, no room for cool detachment. The music itself demands to be reveled in.

RAY BROWN TRIO is a deep, full-bodied, vintage experience that satisfies the entire palate of musical tastes. It then melts delicately into your memory, leaving your listening-self emotionally refreshed and musically stimulated.

© 2001, M.S. Robinson, ARR