Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Raymond Matthews Brown, 13 Oct. '26, Pittsburgh PA; d 2 July 2002, Indianapolis IN) Bass. He played with Dizzy Gillespie late '40s; formed his own trio; was married to Ella Fitzgerald (and was her accompanist) '48-52; with JATP annual tours and Oscar Peterson trio '51-66. Records with Peterson, JATP, many others; moved to California. His career with Peterson and JATP meant a long association with Norman Granz's labels. With the Peterson trio in particular, Brown was part of a group that breathed together, setting a standard for this kind of music; he went on to become one of the most celebrated jazz musicians of the 20th century.
Brown's albums as leader include Bass Hit and This Is Ray Brown on Verve. As a star sideman on Pablo: Milt Jackson/Ray Brown Jam, The Big Three (Jackson, Brown and Joe Pass), The Giants (Peterson, Brown and Pass), Duke's Big Four; This One's For Blanton re-created the 1940 Ellington/Blanton duets '72. More sets as leader include Brown's Bag '75 on Concord Jazz; Something For Lester '77 on Contemporary; As Good As It Gets '77 (trio), Trio Live At Concord Jazz Festival 1979 (with Ernestine Anderson), Tasty! '79 (duet with Jimmy Rowles), all on Concord; Summerwind '80 (quartet with Martin Drew, Johnny Griffin, Monty Alexander). Moonlight Serenade (duo with Laurindo Almeida), both on Jenon; A Ray Brown 3 with Alexander and Sam Most, Overseas Special with Alexander and Ray Ellis both on Concord; also nine albums on that label with the LA Four: Almeida, Bud Shank, Brown, Shelly Manne or Jeff Hamilton, drums, and two more by this group on East Wind (Japanese label for direct-to-disc records). Brown has produced Hollywood Bowl concerts, managed Quincy Jones, published instruction books; one of the busiest and most highly regarded of bassists, he must have played on almost as many records as Milt Hinton
He carried on with Seven Steps To Heaven '95 on Telarc, with Benny Green on piano, Ulf Wakenius on guitar, Gregory Hutchinson on drums, described by a critic as 'classic jazz from the 1940s, '50s and '60s ... also exquisitely contemporary'. Some Of My Best Friends Are The Sax Players '96 had guests such as Jesse Davis on alto, who played in Robert Altman's film Kansas City and on his own From Within on Concord. Two-CD Much In Common '97 on Verve compiled three '60s sessions with Milt Jackson, big bands arranged by Ernie Wilkins and Oliver Nelson plus a small group with Wild Bill Davis. A keen golfer, touring until the end, Brown played a round of golf in Inianapolis and went to take a nap before the gig; he died in his sleep.