Smile and Smile Again

Aurell Ray

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Smile and Smile Again Review

by Scott Yanow

Acoustic guitarist Aurell Ray is best-known for his stint in the 1970s with Sonny Rollins. Ray has a pretty tone, a swinging style and plenty of versatility. He also formerly played with Roy Haynes, Jack McDuff and Charles Earland among others. For his long overdue recording debut as a leader, Ray leads a small group that consists of Mulgrew Miller or (on two songs) Renee Rosnes on piano, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. A different trio plays on the closing "Justin's Mood Swing" and there are guest appearances by vibraphonist Cecilia Smith, tenorman Teodross Avery and percussionist Cyro Baptiste. The music is mostly straight-ahead and includes five of Ray's modern hard bop-oriented originals and lyrical ballads plus songs by Donny Hathaway (a jazz transformation of "When Love Has Grown"), Freddie Hubbard ("Skydive"), Branford Marsalis and Joe Henderson ("If"). Ray has a pretty sound on his instrument while sounding quite different than Earl Klugh (one of the pacesetters on the acoustic guitar). Strangely enough, this CD also include an unidentified tenth song not listed on the CD jacket. Whether jamming on the boppish blues changes of "If" or putting understated emotions into an atmospheric ballad, Aurell Ray comes up with consistently creative solos throughout the excellent disc.

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