MICHAEL RAY & THE COSMIC KREWE
If you didn’t already know high-voltage trumpeter Michael Ray lived and worked in New Orleans, you’d probably guess it: with the musical stew he calls the Cosmic Krewe, Ray acts as combination chef and voodoo priest, mixing up jazz and pop, soul and hip-hop, second-line R & B and even a little performance art. Few cities besides New Orleans could provide such a variety of fresh ingredients, and no city has such a reputation for throwing them all together; but truth be told, Ray might well have come up with a similar blend wherever he lived. His own history includes a stint with the Sun Ra Arkestra as “Intergalactic Research Tone Scientist” and an extended engagement as trumpeter with Kool & the Gang; you can also find some of his hot licks between the pits on Phish’s 1995 live album. Onstage Ray shows his hard-bop roots, but he also plays plenty of Kool funk, and his band’s wardrobe and spirit alike derive from the Arkestra’s–witness the deep electric-bass and conga grooves that open onto free-jazz vistas before segueing into a psychedelic variation on Professor Longhair’s Creole boogie-woogie. The Krewe has released one album, and it was recorded five years ago; only Ray and drummer Eddie Dejean remain from that lineup, which makes it tough to positively guarantee the direction or quality of this show. But given Ray’s musicianship and his galactic approach to letting the good times roll, I still plan to feed my head with his wackily soulful musical ragout. The Cosmic Krewe performs as part of Northwestern’s annual lakeside carnival, Armadillo Day. Saturday, 6 PM, behind Norris Center, Northwestern University, 1999 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 847-491-2300 or 847-467-1381. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Neil Alexander.