Seeing the advertisements that once called Ray Brown the “world’s richest bass player,” one could well puzzle over the meaning. Rich as in material wealth? Or was it a reference to his impossibly broad and deep sound, the treasures of his unflappable technique, and the sterling career that dates back to the mid-40s? Brown still displays such remarkable control of his instrument–with Swiss-quartz time, precision-tuned solos, and intonation solid enough to hang your hat on–that one can scarcely believe he’s one month shy of 70 years old. What’s more, he has played so well for so long that most of us take him for granted, tending to gloss over his place in jazz history and his present-day achievement. Brown made his first records in 1946, at the age of 19, with bebop legends Gillespie and Parker; he also took part in the creation of the Modern Jazz Quartet, accompanied (and married) Ella Fitzgerald, and then anchored the fabled Oscar Peterson Trio of the 50s. Those associations helped place him among the half a dozen most influential bassists of the last 50 years (along with such players as Oscar Pettiford and Charles Mingus)–and the countless recordings on which he has played during that time haven’t hurt either. Brown’s trio boasts the percolating young drummer Greg Hutchinson and Brown’s favorite pianist Benny Green. Green, always an exciting and thoughtful player, spent the first part of his career progressively mastering the prevailing piano styles of the 40s, 50s, and 60s; now he has begun to weave them into a style that speaks his own mind. The trio sticks to familiar idioms and an uncomplicated swing, and you won’t hear anybody do it better. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 670-2473.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by David Fischer.