Eric Byrd / Eric Byrd Trio

Brother Ray

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Although it's an album in tribute of Ray Charles, pianist/vocalist Eric Byrd here takes the approach of choosing lesser-known recordings to cover, for fear of mishandling the truly classic performances. It's a good approach in this case. While Byrd and his band have some excellent chops (and in particular, the addition of the "+4 Horns"), Byrd's voice is casual, built for a quiet nightclub. The fire of Charles' songs is missing. The back-and-forth of "Baby It's Cold Outside" (here with Lea Gilmore) becomes a casual conversation rather than the hesitation and pleading that it was under Charles and Betty Carter. Excellent solos throughout the album from Paul Carr (who once played with Charles) on tenor sax and Brad Clements on trumpet, and an extremely solid rhythm section made of Byrd himself, Al Young, Jr., and Bhagwan Khalsa make for a nice listen instrumentally, though fans of Charles' music probably shouldn't be looking here. Shoot for a collection or two of Charles' work in preference to this one -- there's honest admiration, but the covers fall short of really being an homage to the genius himself.

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