Ray Charles and Count Basie Orchestra – Ray Sings, Basie Swings

Ray Sings, Basie Swings
Ray Charles and Count Basie Orchestra
(Concord – 2006)
by Matthew Robinson

  • For those who think Danger Mouse is a classic British cartoon, this album may be a good introduction to the concept of mash albums.
  • For those of you who think great music is dead, this album may be a revelation.
  • For those who think Ray Charles is the guy from the Pepsi commercials… Well….

Inspired by a single tape that included recordings of two legends of contemporary music – Ray Charles and Count Basie – this posthumous album combines the vocal artistry of classic Charles with re-arranged renditions of the equally late and great Basie’s beats performed by his namesake big band.

Opening with an inspirational take on Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” the collection contnues from a swinging rock through “Let the Good Times Roll,” and a free, fun (and frequently French) “Look What They Done To My Song” to covers of the Beatles “The Long and Winding Road,” Buck Owens’ “Cryin’ Time” and the Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and ends with the Hoagy charmicahel-penned signature “Georgia On My Mind.”

Though the Basie horns stutter a bit through the funk of “Every Saturday Night,” their lush and languid layers of “How Long Has This Been Going On?” complement Ray’s rainy rasp perfectly and their take on “Busted” is note perfect. That all of Ray’s vocal tracks were taken from the same concert demonstrates how diverse a performer he was and how far he was willing to stretch for his art and his audicne. Thankfully, the producers at Concord were willing to go the extra mile as well.

So whether you want an example of great production or just a great album…you got the right one baby – Uh Huh!

©Matthew S. Robinson, ARR