Ray Alexander

b. 7 February 1925, Lynbrook, Long Island, USA, d. 9 June 2002, New Hyde Park, New York, USA. Born into a musical environment (his mother was a concert pianist), Alexander began playing piano as a very…
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Artist Biography

b. 7 February 1925, Lynbrook, Long Island, USA, d. 9 June 2002, New Hyde Park, New York, USA. Born into a musical environment (his mother was a concert pianist), Alexander began playing piano as a very small child. At school, he formed a harmonica band then planned to be a trumpet player, but childhood asthma ended that ambition. After seeing Gene Krupa at New York’s Paramount Theatre around 1940 Alexander decided on taking drumming lessons. He also continued to listen to jazz in New York clubs, hearing ‘Big’ Sid Catlett, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and many others. Occasionally Alexander sat in and accompanied musicians such as the violinists Stuff Smith and Joe Venuti. Alexander’s career plans were interrupted by army service during World War II but on his return he played with many bands including Chubby Jackson and Bobby Byrne. At the end of the 40s he began playing vibraphone, studying all the time he was working as a drummer by day and vibraphone player by night. After initially playing drums with Claude Thornhill in the mid-50s, he joined George Shearing’s Quintet, switching to vibraphone, towards the end of the decade.

Active mostly around New York, Alexander played with many musicians, sometimes on drums, other times on vibes, playing formal sessions and just for kicks. In this way he accompanied musicians such as Charlie Barnet, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Bill Evans. In the early 60s he briefly became co-owner of a jazz restaurant in Westchester County then, in the early 70s he formed a quartet, Alexanders The Great with Mousey Alexander. He continued gigging in the New York area during the late 60s and in the 70s and in 1983 recorded his first album under his own name with Kenny Barron and Warren Vaché Jnr. In the early 90s Alexander was still mostly to be heard in and around New York although he began touring Europe regularly in the summer once every year, thanks in part to the success of his debut album, which was not released in the UK until 1990. Alexander was an enthusiastic player who inspired a warm response from his audience.