November 2000

Ray Brown - Some of My Friends Are...The Trumpet Players
Telarc CD 83495
Released: 2000

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]In the fourth installment of what has become a very popular series, Ray Brown delivers Some of My Best Friends Are...The Trumpet Players. Over the years, Brown has played with so many of the great, near-great, and not-so-great jazz musicians that this series seemingly has no end in sight -- and that’s a good thing. Besides, I’m sure there are a number of young players out there who would give their eye teeth to be able to play just once with Brown.

Brown’s trio (Geoff Keezer on piano and Karriem Riggins on drums) is joined on this disc by trumpet luminaries Clark Terry, Roy Hargrove, Jon Faddis, Nicholas Payton, Terrence Blanchard and James Morrison. But, if you’re not a trumpet fan, what would compel you to lay down your hard-earned cash for this disc? Well, the answer my friends (and no, it’s not "Blowin’ In The Wind") lies at the very heart of this review.

Part of the reason you just might want to add this disc to your collection is that it is another of those which Telarc recorded via the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) process. Ergo, you get sound at the very forefront of present CD technology (only JVC’s XRCD process produces better results to my ears). Brown’s bass is very well recorded. So well, in fact, that it almost becomes a living, breathing entity in your listening room. You get both plucked (or slapped, or whatever Brown’s doing at the moment) string sound as well as a full, deep, resonant body tone.

The subtleties in each trumpeter’s technique are easy to differentiate: the sharp, biting style of Terrence Blanchard; the mellower, yet still sharp tones of Nicholas Payton; the almost soft sound of Jon Faddis; and that most distinctive sound that is Clark Terry. This is another reason to buy this disc: it’s your opportunity to hear six different trumpet styles, all well recorded.

Soundstaging is mostly speaker-to-speaker, with each trumpeter boldly front and center, with Brown’s bass slightly behind and to the left. The rest of the quartet is behind Brown, with Keezer in the left rear and Riggins in rear right. There is adequate depth, with room and air around each musician.

There is no new ground broken here (or on any of Brown’s Some Of My Best Friends Are... series for that matter), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What you won’t get here is what many of these tribute albums seem to give: a perfunctory performance. No, here you’ll receive an album inhabited by players who truly sound as if they’re having a good time and want to simply lay down some relaxed music as they reminisce about old times (or new ones if they’ve never played with Ray before). These guys are having fun, and it shows in the playing.

Each trumpeter gets two selections, so the mood and tempo vary throughout this album. For instance, when Jon Faddis does the jazz standard "Bag’s Groove," it is taken at a sloooow, almost dirge-like pace; yet just two tracks later, Terrence Blanchard rips through a version of "I’m Getting Sentimental Over You" that's about as fast and bouncy as I’ve ever heard it.

But reason number one for buying this disc is Ray Brown. Brown is a bass player deluxe, one who, over the course of his long and distinguished career, has incorporated the lessons he’s learned playing alongside the likes of Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Oscar Peterson (Brown was the anchor of the Oscar Peterson Trio for years), Sonny Rollins (remember Way Out West?), Duke Ellington (I’ll bet you forgot he played in Ellington’s band for a while, didn’t you?), Lester Young, and Cannonball Adderley (those Poll Winner albums). He just knows how to please. There is never a wrong note, never a lost phrase -- just good, relaxed playing that will help you unwind and flow into and with the music.

So, if you buy this album, you can add an addendum to the title. It will now be...Some Of My Best Friends Are...The Trumpet Players...And My Fans. Can you think of a better friend?