Walk On

Ray Brown / Ray Brown Trio

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Walk On Review

by Thom Jurek

What a curious, if delightful, package Walk On is. Comprised of two CDs -- the first is the final Ray Brown trio date from January 2000 with Geoffrey Keezer and Karriem Riggins, and the second is two separate live shows from 1994 and 1996 respectively -- the players range from Keezer to Monty Alexander and Bennie Green, bassists Josh Clayton and Christian McBride, and drummers Lewis Nash and Gregory Hutchinson. Disc one is pure Brown majesty as he and the band literally walk, very sprightly, through a series of classics such as "You Are My Sunshine," "Stella by Starlight," Wes Montgomery's "Fried Pies," and "Sunday." But more importantly, they showcase the delicate intricacy of Brown's own compositions on the three-part "Ray Brown Suite," the illustriously lush "Hello Girls" -- with a stunning interplay dialogue between Keezer and Brown -- and the funky "Lined With a Groove" that reveals the Horace Silver soul touch in its melodic line. Disc two is from gigs that showcase the different sides of Brown as a leader: the driven, intense improviser who found a groove and extrapolated upon it until it turned into something else, with Hutchinson and Green on "F.S.R." and "Stardust"; the loping strolling bassist who can drive a band with his easy, slippery phrasing, with Alexander and Nash on "Woogie Boogie"; and the dialogue artist concerned with dynamics and the intricacy of a melody's separate harmonic elements, with McBride, Keezer, and Clayton on "Down by the Riverside." In each case, Brown is the consummate listener, the very archetype of economic musical wisdom and a supreme lyricist in his phrasing. One of the most revealing things about this set is how Brown's true worth as a composer, bandleader, and improviser is not yet known and probably won't be for decades to come. But make no mistake; it will be. This may not be the finest of Brown's moments on record, but the recordings are fine, shining examples of his artistry, and they are, alas, the final examples.

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